Some Standouts So Far from YSNKS

That’s “You Shall Never Know Security,” J.R. Hamantaschen’s collection of short stories through which I am currently making my way.

I am over halfway through these stories now and I haven’t been disappointed.  “Endemic” was particularly satisfying, scratching that itch we all have somewhere inside of us for justice irrespective of the legal system.  One of my favorites so far has to be “Truth is Stranger than Fiction.”  This is a “found” story presenting itself as a factual document in grand horror story traditon.  HPL did this a lot to great effect and this story pays homage to those, while firmly grounding itself in contemporary society.  It presents itself as a legal opinion about a murder trial.  Very effective.

“Jordan, When Are You Going to Settle Down, Get Married, and Have Us Some Children?” was disgusting, in a can’t-help-it-but-grin-at-the-grossness kind of way.  But halfway through it I realized I knew this story.  It had been read on pseudopod some time before and I remember having the same reaction then.  I have a father and a father in law that may have this problem.

“College” I thought was a little boring.  It didn’t hold my attention as well as the others.  I feel like this concept has been explored before, though I’m hard pressed right now to say where.

“Sorrow Has Its Natural End,” though, was really, really good.  Disturbing in a fresh way and on multiple levels.  There were a lot of things of which to be fearful here.

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Flaccid Squid Story

Well, at least as far as I’m concerned, China Mieville hasn’t changed his ways much. His editors must be afraid of him. By page 200 of Kraken I was bored, and found myself not caring about the characters. I soooo wanted this to be a good story. I felt like it had a lot of promise when I began. But it fell apart. Sure there were bright spots, like the villains Goss and Subby, who reminded me so much of the pair of school-children like villains called “The Prefects” from The Somnambulist. I enjoyed his exploration of cults and religion even as I understood he was poking no small amount of fun at the idea of religion and religious persons in general. I just don’t know – nothing since Perdido Street Station has been that great. Which is too bad really, cause each book seems like it has so much potential. Anyone out there (as if anyone reads this) feel differently? Which Mieville book besides Perdido stands out to you as being excellent?

So, and I’m getting much better at doing this the older I get, I put Kraken down. I used to think I owed it to the author to finish their work since they put so much time into writing it. But now I realize I don’t owe the author shit. I also thought I owed it to myself to finish the book if I paid good money for it, but alas, this was a library ebook checkout. Free from obligation, I moved on.

The good folks over at the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast – you do know about and follow that podcast, right? Right?! – have been highlighting a new book of short, horror stories by a new author. I checked it out online and the ebook version was only $5 – great! I snatched it up and have begun reading J.R. Hamantaschen’s You Shall Never Know Security. The title comes from this quote by Edward Bellamy in his 1887 novel Looking Backward:

“Do your work never so well,” the spectre was whispering–“rise early and toil till late, rob cunningly or serve faithfully, you shall never know security. Rich you may be now and still come to poverty at last. Leave never so much wealth to your children, you cannot buy the assurance that your son may not be the servant of your servant, or that your daughter will not have to sell herself for bread.”

I have to say, it’s a brilliant title for a collection of unsettling horror tales. I’ve read the first two stories so far, “A Lower Power,” and “Wonder.” Both left me uncomfortable in pretty profound way. The writing is clear and concise, contemporary but very erudite – I had to look up a few words.

“A Lower Power” was quite the disturbing story to read in the dark, at night, in bed. At least the first few pages. It got stranger after that, but the truly disturbing line that had me cautiously glancing at my ceiling was in the first few pages. It’s a tale of desire and revenge, loss and a failure to understand. Good stuff.

“Wonder” was fun. Disturbing, but fun. Goes to show you that you never truly know who you are pissing off. Be careful.

I’m looking forward to the rest.