Tuesday, November 29, 2016

[microreview] Ghost Summer: Stories by: Tananarive Due

Beauty and horrors....

In her introduction, to Tananarive Due’s collection Ghost Summer: Stories, Nalo Hopkinson writes about the unease caused by the stories in the book. It’s the exact word for the mood that the collection conveys: unease, a slowly building sense of something terrible to come.

The stories in the book, Due’s first short story collection, cover a wide array of characters and predicaments—while never falling into the paths a reader might expect. A teacher moves to a new town and is changed by the experience (and, boy, do I mean changed). In another story (and my favorite in the collection), a mother deals with a changeling-like child and the ways in which it’s actually much nicer than her own baby. In another excellent story, a woman returns to help her best friend and her best friend’s daughter with surprising revelations. What is particularly masterful in these pieces are the ways in which Due builds character’s quickly so that the reader always understands their motivations even if we don’t necessarily agree with them.

Due’s stories mostly fall into horror, but of the best type: the horrors are built entirely out of character, even when there are supernatural elements involved, so that one even when something monstrous occurs it still feels like a part of the world she has created. Due also doesn’t shy away from the horrors of reality, yes a woman can clone herself—a fantastic premise--but her reasons for doing so lie in a horrific, and all too real childhood.

If there is an issue with the collection, it’s this: many of the stories feel somewhat incomplete, like the story hasn’t completely told itself yet. I enjoy Due’s pacing in how she conveys plot details, but often times I felt more rushed to the ending than I would have liked. This is a greedy reader’s lament: these characters and plots were so compelling, that I wanted the stories to be as rich as they were. Instead, I felt like some of them were more easily shaken off than I wanted them to be, solely because it was easy to quickly move on to the next piece in the collection.

Overall, this is an excellent debut collection from an amazing and exciting voice. While I’ve long followed Due on Twitter and had read a few of her pieces, I’d never fully delved into her work. I’m very glad I did and can’t wait to read more of her work. This collection makes for a strong first glimpse into the characters and images that compel her and would (hint) make a great gift for any horror fans.

The Math

Baseline Assessment: 8/10

Bonuses: +1 for one of the best changeling stories I’ve read

Penalties: -1 for some of the stories not living up to their excellent premises and characters

Nerd Coefficient: 8/10 “well worth your time and attention”


POSTED BY: Chloe, speculative fiction fan in all forms, monster theorist, and Nerds of a Feather blogger since 2016.

Reference: Due, Tananarive Ghost Summer: Stories [Prime, 2016]