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Extremities Paperback – December 16, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Four Walls Eight Windows (December 16, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568581505
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568581507
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,089,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In the 16 stories of Extremities, Kathe Koja enters the lives of ordinary people caught in extraordinary and often disturbing situations. In "Bird Superior," for example, a plane-crash survivor trades his memory of the crash for the ability to fly. "Angels in Love" is the story of Lurleen, a washed-out woman trapped in a meaningless cycle of dead-end work, singles bars, and solitude. She lives vicariously by eavesdropping on Anne, a neighbor who seems to have found the passion and sexual satisfaction that eludes Lurleen. Upon meeting Anne, however, she discovers an even more meaningless life: Anne has made the ultimate trade, exchanging her soul for physical fulfillment. In "The Ballad of the Spanish Civil Guard," an imprisoned poet who writes on behalf of the dispossessed shares the last moments of his life with the reader. Although the location of the prison is unclear, the scene recalls the Franco regime. The poet chooses to die rather than face a life without his writing, but, in his final seconds, he takes solace that his remains may one day form the body of a new poet.

Extremities is Koja's sixth book. Her writing is lush and poetic, yet at the same time she leaves much unsaid, counting on the reader to ground the stories with his or her own sense of place. Koja's blend of mundane characters, supernatural or at least unexplained situations, and a constant undercurrent of the erotic, is a satisfying and disturbing gateway into another world. Each story, unique in character and setting, gives a snapshot of an existence where reality and nightmares collide. --Andy Bookwalter --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In this daring but unsatisfying collection, Koja (The Cipher; Bad Brains) creates characters on and over the edges of madness, self-destruction and sexual obsession. Of these 17 stories (many first published in leading SF venues), the best are reminiscent of Poe or Calvino, unsettling fables in which supernatural elements illuminate complex human relations and psychological states. In "Bird Superior," a stunned plane crash survivor becomes able to fly "between the glide of the clouds beneath him, and the bite of windy stars." In "Jubilee," a lonely woman in a lackluster marriage turns into a disembodied voice in her husband's head after her erotic encounter with a whispering ghost. In these stories, Koja uses her considerable gift for sensory description to real purpose. Far too often, however, the visceral, self-consciously dark tales of the ugly and macabre seem designed merely to shock. In the opening story, "Arrangement for Invisible Voices," a man who confides his troubles to a headless Barbie doll loses his sexual potency after attending a barbecue; he is haunted by the sound of dying pigs, the "unbearable tender wail of their murdered cries, scaling like the scream of high opera." In "Teratisms," the weakest piece, a baby-eating monster-boy obsessively recites the names of cities in Louisiana and horrifies his troubled siblings by coughing up human blood and fingers at McDonald's. Such gratuitous grotesquerie is disturbing without being provocative and generates, at times, an unintentional comic effect.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 7, 1998
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Koja's collection of short stories are a mixture of the bizarre, erotic, and haunting. Koja's writing style is concise and descriptive -- sometimes even vulgar and offensive.
The stories in this work are dark stories -- that is, they explore those topics we would prefer to ignore -- death, fear, hauntings, insanity, and deviant sex. all of these dark topics are strangely interwoven in love themes.
"The Neglected Garden" is intriguing. Almost like a nightmare, the tale challenges the reader to believe in something that seems preposterous -- a woman scorned slowly dying in a neglected back yard in eye shot of her husband. The story is truely spooky.
"Angels in Love" explores, graphically, the desire of a woman to have the unseen lover of her neighbor. She can hear the lovers through the wall and deparately desires to experience the lover first hand.
Each story is a graphic description of the darker side of humanity -- psychiatrists longing for deranged patients, sea monsters, euthanasia, etc.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Dedman on September 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
Kathe Koja is the author of The Cipher, Bad Brains, Strange Angels, Skin and Kink... and if you wanted to sum up this collection in ten words or less, those titles would do it, for ciphers, bad brains, strange angels, skin and kink can be all found here. An even better précis, however, is the title of one of the stories: 'The Disquieting Muse'.
In Danse Macabre, his non-fiction book about horror, Stephen King quotes a review in which a horror film is dismissed as being "for those who like to slow down to look at car crashes" (which, King suggests, is most if not all of us). Koja's brand of horror is quite different. Only a few of the 16 tales in Extremities are horror stories, in the sense of having conventionally scary plots and subject matter - ghosts, demons, monsters, madness - but even most of those that aren't have a dreamlike quality that is disquieting if not terrifying, more like the moments before or after a car crash, where shock distorts your sense of time and reality in a way which is painless but in which everything feels vaguely wrong. Even though all of these stories are told in third person, many have the subjective quality of first-person narrative, making it more difficult to deny or even doubt the insanity of what is apparently happening.
Koja's basic plots are simple, but unpredictable; her main strength, apart from her sensual and often surreal style, is her characterization. As with The Cipher, many of these stories are shaped by how her complex and often bizarre yet believable characters will deal with equally bizarre situations. In 'Arrangement for Invisible Voices', an impotent man becomes obsessed with the head of a Barbie doll. In 'Bird Superior', the survivor of a plane crash becomes capable of flight.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
There can be little doubt anymore that Kathe Koja is America's finest living writer. From the moment her first short story was published close to ten years ago ("Illusions in Relief," reprinted here), the world heralded the coming of the first truly original writer since Clive Barker, and Koja went-- and still goes-- places Barker has never trod. 1991 saw the publication of more stories and the first novel, _The Cipher_, which still stands as the single finest surrealist work in the English language. After a slight slip which shall remain nameless, she returned to publish two of those rare novels that are perfect in every way, Skin and Strange Angels. And throughout, every once in a while she'd unleash another story upon the world in some small, out-of-the-way magazine, or some small-press collection of cutting-edge horror bought by the few thousand faithful who are aware of the genius that is the "new horror." Meanwhile, the rest of the world has overlooked Koja and her contemporaries... until now. Four Walls Eight Windows, one of the most prestigious and well-distributed of the literary presses, has signed both Kathe Koja and Lucius Shepard, among others. _Extremities_ is the first offering of what I can only half-jokingly call the new era of Four Walls Eight Windows, and it's a barnburner, all right.

That's not to say it doesn't slip now and again. When Koja's on, she's on, and when she's off, she's still pretty close to on, but there's a difference in tone to those stories where she's off. They don't grab and hold quite as well.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C. Garcia on March 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This short story collection is a gift, indeed. Kathe Koja's stories are so wonderful that I often scanned the shelves of bookstores for anthologies with Koja stories, then I'd sit and read her story in its entirety.
Now, at last, we have all of her stories in one volume. Buy this book, then seek out her novels, even the ones out of print. Koja is by far the best novelist alive and by signing with Four Walls Eight Windows and getting away from the horror publishing houses, she may finally get the attentions she deserves.
Favorites from this collection include "Angels in Love," "Bird Superior" and "The Neglected Garden." Buy this book now so you can start catching up on years of great reading!
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