|Jelly Ink, 64 pages|
|A review by Rich Horton
Her stories are elliptical and spooky. She often reworks material from fairy tales. Her writing seems to fit mostly the category "slipstream," as well as often being "horror" of a certain kind. She has an ironic and engaging voice: in its way similar to a number of other writers who seem particularly feminist to me, most notably Karen Joy Fowler, who is the writer I would pick if you asked me "Who does Kelly Link's work remind you of most?" I am always interested in her stories, though I must confess sometimes I arrive at the conclusion quite puzzled. And sometimes quite exhilarated, and occasionally both (as with her story "The Girl Detective," a reworking of the story of the twelve dancing princesses combined with Nancy Drew, sort of).
This chapbook, called rather simply 4 Stories, is the first collection of her work. It's published by Jelly Ink, an imprint of Small Beer Press, the small press outfit that publishes Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. The stories are "Vanishing Act," "Survivor's Ball, or The Donner Party," "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose" and "Shoes and Marriage."
"Vanishing Act" is a moving story about a young girl whose cousin, the daughter of missionaries in Indonesia, comes to stay with her. The impending collapse of her parents' marriage, her brother's difficulty in school and worry about being drafted, and her cousin's refusal to engage with anybody, apparently because she feels abandoned by her parents, twine together in a spooky and sad fashion.
"Survivor's Ball, or The Donner Party" features two Americans who meet by chance in New Zealand, and who head to a remote resort amid rumours of a snowstorm having marooned a number of travellers. The title hints at where this is going, and while little is explicitly revealed about what's really happening, the possibilities are scary indeed.
"Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose" is about a dead person (indeed, arguably all four stories have dead characters), who writes letters to his wife, whose name he can't remember. Once again, spooky, atmospheric, tricky.
Finally, "Shoes and Marriage" is really a compendium of four quite short pieces, all of which deal with a marriage, and shoes, in some fashion. One story is a Cinderella variation; another features a very strange beauty pageant, watched by two honeymooners, and which features Dorothy's ruby slippers; another is about a brutal dictator's wife, who loves shoes (evoking images of Imelda Marcos, of course); and the last piece is short and sweet and would be best described by reading the whole of it.
This is a very solid introduction to the work of one of the most intriguing new writers to emerge recently.
Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.
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