And Now for Something Completely Different

I asked Mr. Bookdwarf to write reviews for me of books he’s reading. This might be a new feature or a just a one time thing. Who knows? Recently he read Kelly Link’s Stranger Things Happen, which incidentally you can now download for free, and this is what he thought:

Fantasy and science fiction ask us to imagine what might be possible if things were slightly different: What if you could really become a part of the internet? What if instead of jail time and fines we forced criminals to have weird plastic surgery to denote their crimes? What if a parallel magical world existed hidden from everyday sight? What if dragons existed, and we could fly them, and use them to defend our planet against space-fungus that fell from the sun?

Kelly Link’s collection of short stories, Stranger Things Happen is a different sort of animal altogether, although I’m still trying to figure out exactly what to say about it other than “it’s wonderful, you need to read it.” Her characters certainly have some very strange things happen to them, but the sensibility is probably closer to magical realism, and definitely has its dose of fairy tales with their original Grimm Brothers death-blood-and-sex unhappy endings.

Her fairy-tale elements mix with a sly, contemporary humor: a woman’s lover runs off with the Snow Queen in a sleigh pulled by geese, and she walks halfway across the world on broken glass to tell him she’d been faking all her orgasms the whole time; Cinderella’s prince is unhappily married and satisfies his shoe fetish with prostitutes. Other stories, especially those about children observing the emotional or physical collapse of the adults around them, carry intense emotional weight without drawing on a specific mythos.

Each of these stories is disconcerting in a carefully honed manner, and after each one, I find I have to put the book down and breathe carefully and catch my balance before I continue to the next.

Highly recommended.