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Body Shocks

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Member Reviews

I wanted to read this arc as it features some of my favorite authors and I was curious about reading Christopher Fowler (I liked The Look, surely no Bryant&May) and Seanan McGuire.
It's not the first anthologies edit by Ellen Datlow I read and I can say I liked it even if not all the stories are the same level and some were more terrying than others.
It's a light book to read if you want to escape: some descriptions are quite brutal and horrorific.
It made me discover some new to me authors and appreciated other side of some I love.
Recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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Solid selection of body horror short stories

Maybe I'm jaded but I wouldn't call most of these stories over the top horror. Yes, most of them made me a little squirmy and a couple caused a slight gag reflex but most were just solid horror tales. 

Short stories aren't usually my genre of choice because they're usually so hit and miss (unless they're written by a master such as Stephen King or Richard Chizmar) but I liked the idea of body horror and this collection, while not as totally horrific as I would have preferred, didn't disappoint. I enjoyed all twenty-nine of the stories, some more than others, and it was a long, varied collection with straightforward horror and psychological horror.

If you're looking for a collection of horror stories that will entertain, I recommend this collection edited by Ellen Datlow.

I received this book from Tachyon Publishing through Net Galley in the hopes that I would read it and leave an unbiased review.
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Some really good stories, some not so good. Overall, a decent anthology. Found myself skipping some stories, therefore 3 stars.
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Like most anthologies, you will find some stories are more to your liking than others, but I liked most of the stories, none of the stories were what I’d call extreme, some had a bit of gore, some had more a physiological theme to them.

Each story had a list of awards and sometimes a link for that writer, but I think they would have been better placed at the end of the stories, as there was a few times I ended up going back to the start of the story so I could use the link.

Some of the stand out stories for me were;
A Positive by Kaaron Warren – about greedy people getting what comes to them
Subsumption by Lucy Taylor – a post-apocalyptic story where people are not the real monsters.
Welcome to Mengele’s by Simon Bestwick – about an brothel, where any fantasy can be made reality.
Natural Skin by Alyssa Wong – is about a black market surgeon, and making deals.
The Lake by Tananarive Due – a slow transformation story.
Spores by Seanan McGuire – Nobody likes mold especially one that you can’t clean away.

*Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for a honest review.*
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Running tweet thread started here: https://twitter.com/sfsignal/status/1443981482922582043

In working my way through Ellen Datlow's shockingly good BODY SHOCKS anthology, I found it had to be consumed in fits and starts. At times it was so disturbing I had to walk away...but it was also so good I had to keep coming back. 

Rarely does fiction--even horror fiction--have such an effect. Readers usually box stories safely away to keep the horrific out of their minds. Good luck trying to do that with BODY SHOCKS.  

What's notable about it is how it's a microcosm of short fiction as a whole--specifically in the variety it offers. Even when stories deal with similar themes (here, all are body horror and several stories deal with the theme of beauty), you still get stories that vastly differ.

Over the next 29 days, I'll be sharing tweets for each story in this dare-you-to-read-it anthology.
https://tachyonpublications.com/product/body-shocks/

1. First up: Ray Cluley's "The Travellers Stay" opens the anthology with a wonderfully creepy premise about an unconventional family that checks into a motel. Worst. Motel stay. Ever. But a terrific Kafka-esque story that sets the tone for what's to come.

2. "Toother" by Terry Dowling is a page-turning mystery about a doctor at a mental institution and a patient who hears real-world violent acts in his head.

3. Kirstyn McDermott's "Painlessness" is a compelling and unpredictable story about a woman who is moved to do something about her abused neighbor, only to find the truth even more horrifying.  

4. Nathan Ballingrud's captivating story "You Go Where It Takes You" is, by turns, a poignant profile of a single mother, a terrifying encounter with a stranger, and a heartbreaking finale. 

5. The unsettling "A Positive" by Kaaron Warren is about a man's relationship with his aging father who's really fond of blood transfusions as a means of feeling young. 

6. In the wonderfully scathing "La Beauté Sans Vertu" (French for "Beauty Without Virtue"), Genevieve Valentine takes a swipe at the current trends in the fashion industry and the overrated value we give to beauty.

7. If you were to smash together post-apocalyptic fiction with horror, you'd get Lucy Snyder's short-but-sharp "Subsumption," in which nature becomes the unexpected enemy of two survivors who venture away from the safety of their shelter. 

8. "Spar" by Kij Johnson is about a woman and an alien stuck at close quarters in a lifeboat. Graphic human/alien sex is the only way they interact, though it serves as neither pleasure nor communication. 

9. A married woman on a business trip to New Orleans gets more than she bargained for in "It Was the Heat" by Pat Cadigan, which is less notable for its fantastical elements than it is its matter-of-fact depiction of women in the business world. 

10. Cody Goodfellow's "Atwater" is like some gonzo, late-night, B-Movie double feature. It's about a man who gets lost on his way to a business appointment and ends up in some bizarre fever dream. Twice. 

11. "The Transfer" by Edward Bryant is a truly chilling story about a killer who meets up with a married couple and the wife's willingness to meet the threat head-on. 

12. Simon Bestwick's terrific story "Welcome to Mengele’s" is imaginative despite being quite twisted. You'll never think of human experiment brothels the same way again! 

13. "Black Neurology: A Love Story" by Richard Kadrey is a short story about an autopsy gone wrong, made all the more creepy because of its use of the second person. 

14. "Cuckoo" by Angela Slatter is a bizarre tale about a ghost who takes control of someone's body, be they alive or otherwise, while she hunts for a murderer. 

15. Beautiful prose makes the horrors of Livia Llewellyn's "Cinereous" all the more chilling. It's the first-person account of an assistant at a facility experimenting on feral children in Paris at the turn of the 19th century. 

16. "The Truth That Lies Under Skin and Meat" by Cassandra Khaw is about a werewolf who tries to resist the savage urges within herself. She is not often successful. 

17. Alyssa Wong's terrific story "Natural Skin" takes place in the near future, where beauty is coveted and can be had through medical procedures, usually the illicit kind. Liin jie covets that beauty, much more than the reader might expect. 

18. "The Lake" by Tananarive Due, a pot-boiler of a Southern horror story, is about what happens when a woman from Boston moves to small town Florida and takes to swimming in the transformative lake behind her house. 

19. Richard Christian Matheson's "I’m Always Here" is the story of a quite unique musical duo, Daddy and Baby, as seen through the eyes of the music reporter who is writing about them. 

20. "The Look" by Christopher Fowler is a superb story exploring the themes of beauty and fame... and the lessons not necessarily learned by two girls, one on the catwalk, the other desperate to be there. 

21. Carmen Maria Machado's fable-like "The Old Women Who Were Skinned--about a pair of elderly sisters, one whose youth is magically restored--is a short read, but nonetheless includes some long-lasting imagery. 

22. Seanan McGuire's straightforward, easily-digestible prose propels her sublime story "Spores" to greatness. The ever-increasing feeling if dread is, quite simply, perfectly delivered. 

23. It doesn't get much weirder than "Sweet Subtleties" by Lisa L. Hannett, in which a confectioner creates a living woman out of sugar and sweets. The emotional punch of the story is *why*. 

24. "Elegy For a Suicide" by Caitlín R. Kiernan is another terrific story (like McGuire's "Spores") about a biological threat from the point of view of the victim's lover. It drives the story forward by teasing the plot in bits and pieces. 

25. What makes "Skin City" by Gemma Files so elegantly creepy isn’t the girl who wears the skin of her victims, it’s the pleasure she derives from her perverse compulsion.

26. Brian Evenson’s short entry, "A True Friend," is a scene in which a supposedly-dead body is being photographed. It has to be the most effective use of sarcasm to describe friendship.

27. "What I Found in the Shed" by Tom Johnstone may be short, but the central idea, about a mysterious machine and the solace it could give to a grieving family, is interesting.

28. In "Fabulous Beasts" by Priya Sharma, we learn about the life of narrator Lola, her childhood with her single mother, her role as her cousin's protector, and her fascination with snakes. Only when her thieving uncle is released from prison do we really understand the shocking reality of her dysfunctional family. 

29. Michael Blumlein's amazingly detailed "Tissue Ablation and Variant Regeneration: A Case Report" is notable not only for the author leveraging his medical background to describe the dissection and dismemberment of a living patient, but also for the controversial way it is used to punish a political figure. 

And there you have it! 29 spine-tingling reasons to read the excellent BODY SHOCKS anthology edited by Ellen Datlow.
https://tachyonpublications.com/product/body-shocks/
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Book Review: Body Shocks

No literary subgenre evokes a more visceral reaction than body horror. Some people crave the bloody carnage at the center of these stories; while others instinctually shrink away from such distressing depictions. It’s easy to understand why so many readers skip over tales of physical peril. Unlike other types of thrills, body horror deals with something so universally relatable that a version of the genre’s terror is guaranteed to appear in your own life. From bum knees to sore gums, even the healthiest among us have some physical concern to contend with. And yet, horror readers’ appetite to experience corporeal destruction has remained strong no matter the fears writers send our way. If you count yourself among those lovers of carnal dismay, then Tachyon Publications’ new collection, Body Shocks (October 19, 2021), will be just what the doctor ordered.

Edited by the acclaimed Ellen Datlow, Body Shocks collects nearly thirty short stories from some of horror’s most celebrated practitioners. Accounts of disfigured super models, skin-shedding transients, human monsters, and ecological havoc all pool together here like so much gleaming viscera down a demented doctor’s drain. But be forewarned, this collection is not for the faint of heart. Lauded in its subtitle as an anthology of “Extreme Tales of Body Horror,” Body Shocks aims to challenge its readers, and there’s not a story among these pages that doesn’t fit the bill.

Highlights among the anthology’s impressive line-up include Nathan Ballingtraud’s “You Go Where it Takes You,” whose somber tone is pitch perfect for the startling revelation hidden at the center of this chance-encounter-turned-transformation story. Pat Cardigan’s “It Was the Heat” is equally impactful in its story of a suburban woman bewitched by the weird underbelly of New Orleans. Not since Dan Simmons’s The Terror has the temperature of a story been so empathetic. There aren’t enough platitudes to heap on Tananarive Due’s “The Lake,” which highlights Due’s impressive ability to craft a story that is effortlessly readable while still feeling dangerous.

Body Shocks’ standout story comes from the legendary Splatterpunk fabulist Cody Goodfellow. “Atwater” tells the tale of a man who takes the wrong exit off the highway into a forbidding world of confounding contradictions. Goodfellow’s literary style is so visually precise it’s nearly cinematic. Readers will be swept away by his visions of honeycombed extremities and shrouded henchmen. But it’s not just the imagery that will set imaginations on fire; this story is so fresh it’s still alive. It’s almost a guarantee that some readers will start rereading “Atwater” the moment they finish.

Paperbacks from Hell fans will be pleased to see that Datlow has included a short story from the late Michael Blumlein (X,Y, The Movement of Mountains). Of all the terrors included Blumlein’s “Tissue Ablation and Variant Regeneration: A Case Report” may be the most grisly, printed here for the first time in an American anthology.

While it’s undeniable body horror is an acquired taste, Body Shocks is sure to delight horror fans from every walk of life. From the decidedly adult “Welcome to Mengele’s” by Simon Bestwick to the superbly twisted “Fabulous Beasts” by Priya Sharma, this is a collection that will challenge the senses with delightful pains and punishing pleasures.
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There is a reason 𝗘𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗻 𝗗𝗮𝘁𝗹𝗼𝘄 has a stack of awards listed in her credentials, she is one of, if not the best, anthology editors I have read.

In 𝗕𝗼𝗱𝘆 𝗦𝗵𝗼𝗰𝗸𝘀, 𝗘𝘅𝘁𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗲 𝗧𝗮𝗹𝗲𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗕𝗼𝗱𝘆 𝗛𝗼𝗿𝗿𝗼𝗿 Datlow brings together some of the best horror authors to explore our fears on a primal level, through grotesque tails of things that can happen to the human body.

This collection of body horror will do more than make you cringe, it will leave your mind reeling, as you continue to digest the story long after finishing it. Datlow has done an amazing job assembling this cast of stories that are all unique and imaginative, but share a common thought provoking thread of extreme human experiences like revenge, redemption, betrayal, & abandonment that will keep you burning the midnight oil.

I was originally going to highlight my favorite stories, but honestly the list was too damn long. So I’m limiting myself to my stand out picks; however, I loved everything within these pages.

𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗚𝗼 𝗪𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝗜𝘁 𝗧𝗮𝗸𝗲𝘀 𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗯𝘆 𝗡𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗮𝗻 𝗕𝗮𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴𝗿𝘂𝗱. This one creeped under my skin and has not left. Every time I look at my kid, every time I lay down to go to sleep, every time I pass a gas station - I THINK ABOUT IT.

𝗦𝗽𝗮𝗿 𝗯𝘆 𝗞𝗶𝗷 𝗝𝗼𝗵𝗻𝘀𝗼𝗻. This story was seriously effed. I’ve never had a desire to go to space, now even if the earth is coming to an end I will perish on my home planet before I venture into the unknown.

𝗦𝗽𝗼𝗿𝗲𝘀 𝗯𝘆 𝗦𝗲𝗮𝗻𝗮𝗻 𝗠𝗰𝗚𝘂𝗶𝗿𝗲. Really fun body horror that also plays on the concept of your deepest fears coming to fruition and will ensure you never look at fruit the same again.

If you’re looking for stories that will make you squirm with fearful delight, and “extreme body horror” doesn’t send you running in the opposite direction, then my friend Body Shocks is for you!
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Ellen Datlow always pulls from a variety of talents to serve up whatever delight readers are craving, but even the title Body Shocks can hardly prepare you for what’s in store. An avid horror fan from long ago, I found myself cringing through a few of these stories in spite of myself. Perhaps these offerings are too up-close and personal, when the horror isn’t near you, but on you or in you, which does put the terror on another level. The tales in Body Shock are vivid, like a nightmare, though even nightmares end; these just set the stage for a fresh start on the unthinkable processes that turn everyday people into unrecognizable creatures mentally and physically. A couple of stand-outs were The Lake by Tanarive Due and What I Found in the Shed by Tom Johnstone, though all have been curated by a master at her craft.
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A collection of stories edited by Ellen Datlow, which deal with body horror. 

While I really enjoyed many of the stories in this collection, some were quite bland or just not to my liking. 

As it goes with anthologies, you may not really like all the different stories, however most of them were pretty good, so it probably would not spoil your enjoyment of the book. 

This anthology contains stories written by many great names in horror literature. 

The stories I enjoyed most were “Spores” by Seanan McGuire, which was quite unsettling,  and “Fabulous Beasts” by Priya Sharma, which was dark and intriguing. 

I would definitely recommend this book for fans of the horror genre. 

Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advance reader’s copy for an honest review.
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I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley.

This is a pretty long short story collection, so let's see if reviewing the stories as I read them is more effective than trying to remember all of them after I finish the book.

The Travellers Stay by Ray Cluley- The Metamorphosis if Kafka wasn't all that concerned with what happened to Gregor after he turned into a bug. This was hard to like simply because none of the characters are developed enough to care about.

Toother by Terry Dowling- A doctor and an investigator, assisted by a psychic who hears voices, investigate a series of murders where victims were bitten to death and had their teeth stolen. Super good and creepy. I wanted it to be longer; heck, I want a whole series following these characters.

Painlessness by Kirstyn McDermott- A young woman finds that her new neighbor has a very unusual way of making money. She lets men pay her to hurt her, because sometimes the only distraction from pain is more pain.

You Go Where It Takes You by Nathan Ballingrud- A young single mother working as a waitress meets a man at the diner and takes him home. The man tells her a strange story where he dreamed of a man whose face he never saw, and then he stole that guys car, but not in a dream. He really stole the guy's car, and he finds something terrible in the trunk. Hard to like this one, as it's another story with no likable characters. Very bleak.

A Positive by Kaaron Warren- A man reminisces about why he put his elderly father in a home. Turns out, his parents had him to be a blood donor for his father, and he spent his life being drained of blood to keep his father young. As he grows older and more independent, he starts to enjoy tormenting his father. I mean, that seems like a pretty predictable outcome to me.

La Beauté sans verte by Genevieve Valentine- Due to what is probably just a misprint in my galley, this story is missing. Luckily, I have already read it at Tor.com. It's a lovely little horror story about fashion and beauty standards, and I recommend it.

Subsumption by Lucy Taylor- A couple leave their survival bunker to find the girl's father. They decide to stick to the woods, thinking it will be safer than meeting other people. They are very wrong. Some really well described transformation horror going on here, but this feels more like a fragment than a full story.

Spar by Kij Johnson- This is the most disturbing story so far. A woman who I don't think is ever named survives either an attack or accident on a starship and is picked up by an alien life pod. The alien penetrates all of her orifices and she does the same to the alien, which is completely inhuman and only communicates by fucking her, if what they're doing can even be classified as sex. She doesn't know if the alien knows she's a person, or if the alien is either. This is exactly body horror.

It Was the Heat by Pat Cadigan- A working wife and mother goes to a business conference in New Orleans. The heat gets to her, in multiple ways. This didn't really feel like horror to me, maybe because the heat creature is very lightly described. Not bad for an atmospheric character piece.

Atwater by Cody Goodfellow- An ordinary man gets lost one day while driving in L.A. He finds the nightmare town of Atwater, where people can be transformed into living bee hives, and doctors with cages full of shadows instead of heads do terrible experiments. He escapes, at least temporarily, but that means a lot less than you'd think. The descriptions in this one are visceral and terrible. This is very effective horror.

The Transfer by Edward Bryant- A middle aged woman on vacation with her husband thinks back over her life. She's always felt like she reflected people who knew her back to themselves. She becomes more like her partners the longer they are together. People remark how much she and her husband resemble each other. Since her husband is a kind, gentle man, this isn't a problem. But now something horrible has happened to her husband, and her transference abilities might save her life. Whether she survives or not, there's going to be a lot of damage. This is a slow build, and I wanted to see what happened next.

Welcome to Mengele’s by Simon Bestwick- A man is offered something much too good to be true, in this case an impossible sexual fantasy. His low-life buddy takes him to the most exclusive brothel ever, where any fantasy, no matter how weird or depraved can be made reality. The catch of course is that no brothel called Mengele's is going to be safe, sane, and consensual. This one is a little glib, a little shallow, but plenty disturbing.

Black Neurology: A Love Story by Richard Kadrey- The speaker has paid to watch his beloved's autopsy. But his love has very strange anatomy, with parts that are clearly inanimate. This isn't really a proper story. It's mostly just a little horror sketch, a snapshot of weird.

Cuckoo by Angela Slatter- A demon, or perhaps fallen angel, searches for a way to make a child murderer fear them. They start by possessing the dead body of his most recent victim, but when Mr. Timmons expresses no fear at seeing his victim walking around, the demon must resort to more extreme measures. Disturbing.

Cinereous by Livia Llewellyn- I love Livia Llewellyn. If you like strong horror with an intense focus on bodies and eroticism you should definitely check out her work. This one follows Olympe, an assistant at a terrifying laboratory in late 18th century France. An experiment gets out of hand, and Olympe is poised to be the carrier for an apocalyptic plague.

The Truth That Lies Under Skin and Meat by Cassandra Khaw- This one is a little hard to follow. Best as I can tell, a werewolf's friend asks her not to kill a specific woman who has wronged him, and the werewolf, who seems to really hate humanity in general, decides to ignore him. The plot is a little lacking, but the details are suitably gruesome.

Natural Skin by Alyssa Wong- In a cyberpunk, body-mod future Toronto, a young woman makes her way to a black market surgeon, to offer her a deal. This is pretty good, if a touch undeveloped. One thing I'm noticing is the ratio of women authors and characters in these stories is quite high. Maybe I should have anticipated that, because certainly women know what's it like to understand the body as a sight of horror and trauma, more so than men.

The Lake by Tananarive Due- A woman takes a teaching position in a small Florida town, and doesn't get the memo that you aren't supposed to swim in the local lakes. She's remarkably sanguine about the transformation that she begins to experience. There's also a bit of weird characterization, where she seems to be sexually interested in her male teenage students, and it's implied that she was friends with Mary Kay Letourneau.

I’m Always Here by Richard Christian Matheson- This is pretty slight. A music journalist follows a country twosome (called Baby and Daddy, yuck), who have undergone a procedure to have Baby surgically attached to Daddy so her body can keep him alive. This one stretches the bonds of believability a little too much for me.

The Look by Christopher Fowler- A young woman and her friend try to arrange a meeting with a fashion designer that they're both obsessed with. This does not go to plan, and they discover that the fashion world has some dark and gruesome secrets. This isn't bad, but the idea seems a little cliché. Yeah, we know the fashion industry is gross, but it doesn't require people having tattoos on their eyeballs and wires threaded through their faces to be gross.

The Old Women Who Were Skinned by Carmen Maria Machado- A weird little fairytale about a pair of elderly sisters and their attempts to become young again.

Spores by Seanan McGuire- A story of genetic engineering gone very wrong. When a woman throws away a bowl of fruit that grew mold unusually quickly, she thinks that some bleach will be enough to get everything clean. She is very wrong. Great characterization in a short story.

Sweet Subtleties by Lisa L. Hannett- I'm strongly reminded of Catherynne Valente's "A Delicate Architecture," which, like this one, features an edible woman made out of candy. I think that story is better, but this one is appropriately visceral.

Elegy For a Suicide by Caitlín R. Kiernan- A young woman and her girlfriend discover a weird, fleshy hole in the ground. The girlfriend puts her arm in it, and pulls out an old straight razor. Soon, she begins to show signs of fungal infection. Is it just me, or is fungus a real go-to when it comes to body horror?

Skin City by Gemma Files- A man receives a tape from an old friend, reminding him of the horrible thing that happened when they were young, and confessing that she needs help. She's become a creature that steals the skins from her victims, and she knows she cannot stop herself. This isn't bad, but I wanted to know more about how the change was triggered.

A True Friend by Brian Evenson- A tiny story featuring Victorian posthumous photography and being buried alive. Creepy, but not much meat on the bone.

What I Found in the Shed by Tom Johnstone- After the death of his baby sister, a kid and his dad find a weird machine in the shed that lets you make living copies of whatever you have a picture of. There is no way for this to work out well.

Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma- Probably my favorite story in this collection. It's a story about generational trauma and embracing your nature. With snakes. Beautiful and dark.

Tissue Ablation and Variant Regeneration: A Case Report by Michael Blumlein- This story... I am doing my best to stop worrying this story over and over in my brain because it is deeply, extremely dark and upsetting. So much so that I can't actually recommend it. If you have a particular taste for the gruesome and want to read a graphically described vivisection, this is for you.

This is a really different and unique collection, suitable for those who at the very least don't mind reading about gore and bodily violation. It's an anthology, so not everything is great, but there's a lot of surprisingly sharp and effective writing.
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If you only read one horror anthology this year, make it this one. It's vivid and intense and totally chilling, I found myself reeling after each story.
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I requested the ARC to read the Ricard Kadrey story.  There's a mixed bag of stories, some are better than others, but all are readable.
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Very good anthology of horror literature. Like all anthology there are stories better than others, but the overall quality and weirdness of them all made this book totally worth it!
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Anche questo richiesto per alcuni autori che mi saltano subito all'occhio.
Angela Slatter si conferma suggestiva e inquietante nel suo Cuckoo, in cui una gara fra mostri viene vinta da chi non ci si aspetterebbe.
Seanan McGuire tocca temi che le sono cari (proprio perché inquietanti, a mio parere XD) in Spores, come muffe, funghi, ricerca scientifica che va a ramengo (e manda a ramengo il mondo e personaggi afflitti da disturbi del comportamento, presentati dal loro punto di vista, senza compassione e senza sdegno.
The old women who were skinned mi ha ricordato una vecchia fiaba del sud Italia, forse letta in Basile, e poi ripresa da Matteo Garrone ne Il racconto dei racconti. Mi chiedo insieme se ci sia una radice comune, e se Carmen Maria Machado mi piaccia o meno, perché dopo diversi suoi racconti letti e digeriti ancora non l'ho capito.
Sono perplessa anche su Cassandra Khaw: sia The truth that lies under skin and meat, contenuto qui, e il racconto che ho letto in When things get dark mi sono piaciuti, mentre ho iniziato tre volte a leggere The all consuming world e l'ho abbandonato trovandolo pessimo. La terrò d'occhio, almeno per togliermi la curiosità.
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