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A Natural History of Hell: Stories Paperback – July 19, 2016
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Jason Heller, NPR
A series of hits that linger long after you’ve finished reading. The mundane seems fantastical when penned by Ford, and the fantastical dreadfully human. Stories range from surreal daily life, to epic fantasy, to Gothic Americana and far, far beyond. It’s hard to pick a favorite, so I recommend you read them all.”
RT Book Reviews ****
In this collection of 13 stories, Ford showcases his award-winning talent for crafting creepy tales that bend the world as we know it in unexpected ways. Although the stories are not linked, they do share a common theme: wickedness lurking just beneath the surface of everyday life. And while each uses different degrees of the supernatural to get there, all employ a dark and uneasy atmosphere, quirky characters, and thought-provoking endings, with delightfully unsettling results. . . . This collection is a good choice for fans of short stories by Neil Gaiman, China Miéville, or Kevin Brockmeier.”
Booklist (starred review)
Celebrated short-form fantasist Ford blends subtle psychological horror with a mix of literary history, folklore, and SF in this collection of 13 short stories, all focused on the struggles, sorrows, and terrors of daily life. Each tale gently twists perceptions, diving down into the ordinary and coming back out with a thoughtful nugget of the extraordinary. Readers will be alarmed by how easily they relate to the well-meaning but inevitably destructive characters.”
Publishers Weekly Best Books of Summer
13 tales that revel in the dark and strange, exhibiting ardent and pliable storytelling that ranges from suburban exorcisms to ghosts in bucolic 1915 Ohio. Each story in this collection displays Ford’s vigorous invention and witty idiosyncrasy in explorations of the wicked and violent corners of the imagination, but the variety of subject, setting, and tone ensures that the book never slips into an authorial haze. . . . The entire collection has a zeal for imagination and an unabashed pleasure in both entertainment and graceful writing that is reminiscent of Ray Bradbury’s short fiction. Ford has a knack for choosing the precise words that evoke an image and leave enough room for it to bloom. Later, the rain started in again. The sound and smell of spring came through the screen of their bedroom window while he dreamt in the language the angels dream in, and she, of the land without worry.”
An excellent collection of stories.”
Weird Fiction Review
"A truly outstanding writer.”
Praise for Jeffrey Ford's award-winning books:
Surreal, unsettling, and more than a little weird. Ford has a rare gift for evoking mood with just a few well-chosen words and for creating living, breathing characters with only a few lines of dialogue.” --Booklist
"Children are the original magic realists. The effects that novelists of a postmodern bent must strive for come naturally to the young, a truth given inventive realization in this wonderful quasi-mystery tale by Jeffrey Ford."--Boston Globe on THE SHADOW YEAR
Jeffrey Ford s latest triumph, THE SHADOW YEAR, is as haunting as it is humorous readers will recognize real talent in Ford s vivid, unerring voice.” --Louisville Courier Journal on THE SHADOW YEAR
Superb, heartbreaking, and masterfully written . . . It s proof of Jeffrey Ford s narrative power that, ultimately, the distinction [between real and invented] doesn t much matter. His made-up world trumps ours.” --Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
"The Shadow Year captures the totality of a lived period, its actualities and its dreams, its mundane essentials and its odd subjective imperatives; it is a work of episodic beauty and mercurial significance."--Nick Gevers, Locus
"Jeffrey Ford is one of the few writers who uses wonder instead of ink in his pen."--Jonathan Carroll, author of The Wooden Sea
Unusual and provocative sometimes shocking, sometimes mesmerizing, sometimes humorous, this collection will please fans of Raymond Carver and Flannery O’Connor. Recommended.” (School Library Journal on THE DROWNED LIFE)
Spooky and hypnotic...Recommended for all public libraries.” (Library Journal)
Ford travels deep into the wild country that is childhood in this novel the observations and adventures of these sharp, wayward children provide more than enough depth to be satisfying.” (New York Times on THE SHADOW YEAR)
A collection of surreal, melancholy stories dealing with everything from worlds of the drifting dead to drunken tree parties. Ford is the author of the superlative, creepy Well-Built City trilogy and his writing is both powerful and disturbing in the best possible way.” (Gawker on THE DROWNED LIFE)
[Ford’s] writing is both powerful and disturbing in the best possible way.” (io9 on Jeffrey Ford)
The 16 stories in this collection are a perfect introduction to Ford’s work and illustrate the vast range of his imagination If you haven’t discovered Ford, it’s time you did. His carefully crafted novels and short stories are all top-notch. Grade: A.” (Rocky Mountain News)
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Top Customer Reviews
A Natural History of Hell is filled with dark and surreal tales that blend horror with fantasy. They combine mythology with realism and throw in a twist of literary history and some metafiction for variety. Always, though, these stories leave an impression for their precision in the writing and the depth of their imaginative qualities. Ford's prose is compulsively readable while maintaining a style that--while unique to him and his work--tips a nod to some of the classic literary writers of the twentieth century. This is literary fiction, to be sure, but it's also wonderfully strange and dark at the same time...in short, these stories would be just as home in Nightmare Magazine as they would be in the pages of The New Yorker.
"The Blameless" had me laughing out loud, and then I shared it with my wife and saw the same reaction. Keen eye for observational detail makes this surreal little tale from suburbia a real gem...
"Word Doll" is flat-out unnerving. The folkloric heart of the story and the characters in this piece will get under your skin...
"Blood Drive" is wicked-sharp cultural satire that, sadly, feels all too close to reality in some areas of public life...
"Rocket Ship to Hell" is endearing and strange and perfectly metafictional Ford at its best...
"The Last Triangle" is another tale with an undercurrent of dark magic and creeping dread...
"The Thyme Fiend" captures time and place perfectly, and poor Emmett's torment is palpable as the tale unfolds...
Ford's latest collection is another fine book. Each story is memorable, and I couldn't bring myself to finish it while waiting for an oil change yesterday. I saved "The Prelate's Commission" until I could get home and enjoy it properly. Like a fine glass of red wine or a savory steak, these stories are meant to be enjoyed and experienced. I'll be re-reading this collection soon...
Hell is a word that in its simplistic view is something like a gymnasium without ventilation, fortunately it is not the case here and even more the meaning takes so many subtle variants or shades as stories has the book.
The stories are truly amazing, there is such a tour de force of creativity, such vitality! I read it at a rate of one story per day; considering my meager time that's a fantastic accomplishment.
If the above didn't give it away, I was pleasantly surprised by the stories in this book. Not that I was expecting bad, but they far exceeded my expectations. Ford is a good author, many of his tales have an air of "folky-ness" to them, in the sense that most of them read like a good ol' dark fairy tale. or ghost story. This quality adds to their enjoyment immensely for me.
I can say honestly that I enjoyed every story in this collection, which is rare even for authors that I love. Which is one of the main reasons I will be actively reading more of Fords work in the future.
The word dolls was one of my particular favorites.
Anyways, if you are a fan of dark horror stories, which are very original, I would find it difficult to believe that you wouldn't at least find this book worth your time.
Jeff, you bastard - take my money!