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This review must necessarily be framed in broad terms, as trying to synopsize any of these stories too closely would be to give away their hidden prizes and spoil the payoffs that make them so compelling in the first place. Suffice to say these are stories to be savored, reflected upon and dreamed about, returned to again and again; and always with that same quickening delight of first discovery. Germain's language is lithe and lyrical, prose ravished by poetry; dark fantasies turned on subtle lathes of light. Rare alchemy indeed; these tales are evocations of the elemental, drawn from the most exquisite strata of quantum possibility. The author captures those infinitesimal flashes of human experience--the unconsciously commonplace--drawing out what we know in our bones, yet could never express in anything less than music, at least until now.
Ms. Germain is fearless in exploring the shadowy erotic impulses at the heart of some of our most chastely cherished legends (as in "Trill", the story that opens the collection). She does not blink when the disturbing logic of her premise is carried out to its inevitable, sometimes horrific conclusion ("Animal Instincts," "Trill," "Seed"). She can, with seeming effortlessness, conjure up new cultures and civilizations, as with the alien matriarchy of "Seed"--a strange through-the-looking-glass reflection of our own mores and assumptions about propriety--or the Old-West inflected wilderness of "One Woman Town," which seems to occupy the frontier between the epic wastelands of Stephen King's "The Gunslinger," and the wind-swept post-apocalyptic ruins of William Miller's "A Canticle for Liebowitz."
Critics more jaded than I might complain that there's nothing particularly revolutionary about this bending of myth and folklore through the well-worn prism of Jungian analysis. "Hasn't this sort of thing been done to death?" they may sniff. To which I would reply most emphatically, "not quite like this; seldom with this level of originality, and certainly never so beautifully or with such purely entertaining results."
Few writers employ the first person with such unassuming subtlety. Still fewer so easily break out of established genre patterns to create settings and characters with such consummate economy and soul-searing truth. Germain invites her readers to use their own imaginations in concert with hers. She does not assault our senses or insult our intelligence with bald declarative sentences or awkward backstory digressions. Her sense of timing is uncanny; the unhurried, almost seductive unfolding of plot; the artfully controlled "unwrapping" of essential detail. The stories take shape before our eyes as if viewed from over the shoulder of a master artist at work on a drawing; a single boldly sketched line is all it takes to define a whole new world; a few more delicate strokes of the pencil, a hint of shading, bring that world and its remarkable inhabitants to unforgettable life. We may, perhaps, be left guessing, pleasantly, at the end, having been given only enough information as our imaginations require to soar.
"The Lure of Dangerous Women" is recommended without reservation.
On the surface of it, "The Lure of Dangerous Women" is a trifling thing: seventy-odd simple pages filled with black symbols and white pages that we see every day. On the surface of it, this is the kind of thing that I barrel through in less than an hour. On the surface of it, this is simply another collection of short genre fiction of which there is an embarrassing surfeit. But this book is alive, a breathing, writhing thing that grips you with ever turn of the page, that entices you along like a pied piper. It is not a pleasant ride; it is terrifying and erotic, icy and scalding, messy and precise, all at once.
It took me three days to finish this book. I had to put it down every other story, surfacing to breathe. I had to walk away and let its characters talk to me some more, let the shadowy cling of their adventures become brittle so that I might brush it off and begin my next journey anew, without the weight of the their sexy, horrifying pull.
All of the women in these stories are dangerous in different ways. These are not all Ripleys and Amazons; they are not all sirens and femme fatales. Rather, they are fully-realized characters, at once sympathetic and wholly themselves. There is as much pain as power, and many of them are so strong as to push past simple binaries of dominance and submission (sexual, physical, political or otherwise) to offer themselves as sacrifice, or even just a part of themselves, for the good of others. There is no bowing involved, but a entirely honorable, uniquely powerful and self-possessed decision. These are the kinds of heroines we need more of.
A very thorough review might walk you step by step through each of the seven offerings, but I'd like to focus on a few highlights. "Trill" is a study in disturbing subtly, taking a familiar trope and turning upon itself. A dark version of the pied piper is only the starting point; it dips and weaves its song into dark and daring places that set the tone of this collection. "Seed" & "One Woman Town" are terrific examples of worlds that are at once alien and accessible, offering a fantastic reality with its own lexicon, its own culture and sets of ideas, but one that also immediately draws us in with both wonder and lust tinged with the fear of Germain's razor-sharp observation.
For it is Germain's style, flexible, expressive and keen, that ties all of these disparate tales together. Make no doubt, these are imaginative stories of terror that are equally very sexy; but they are also stylish bits of prose, a style that engages and engrosses, that pulls you in with a siren's song that can drown you.
Shanna Germain's latest collection is heartily recommended reading for those seeking something extraordinary. Bring your red wine for the libido, your teddy bear for your fear and your shotgun for protection. And even still, you will succumb to the Lure of Dangerous Women.
But the one I need to rave about is "One-Woman Town". I'm not sure who I could compare it to: Cherie Priest? China Mieville? Fritz Leiber? Ray Bradbury?
If David Lynch had directed Firefly, you might end up with something like this.
Everything I've read by Shanna Germain has been top-shelf, impressive, fun to read. But this story is why I read. Atmospheric, intense, with characters that lash out of the ePage and rip your face off.
It's kind of a cocktail made of a classic Western showdown, betrayal, lust, robots, and spiders. I want more. And I never want it to stop.
Enough of "One-Woman Town," you'll want to know about the rest.
"Trill" is a dark and twisted take on a well know fairy tale.
"Seed" may be the best treatment of sexual violence I've ever read. The best use of Speculative Fiction is to say what can't be said well in the real world. By transposing eating and sex we can look at a subject up close without the weight of our experience smothering the story.
"Seeing Stars" was hard for me to read. It conflates sex and death in a terrible way. And it's great.
"Animal Instincts" takes a more mythic, yet grounded, look at death. It contains observations such as "There is the wet sound that the dead make when they slide from the living..."
"One-Woman Town" comes next, but I've gushed enough for one day.
"Forced Expiration" brings sex and death together again, but this time in a wonderful way. A somber, healing story.
"The Lure of Dangerous Women" is a magical mix of music, lust, and dark things that inhabit both. Spooky and yummy.
Most recent customer reviews
I'd end my review right there because I think it says it all, but instead I'm going to explain because Shanna Germain deserves the highest...Read more