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Red Spikes Hardcover – October 9, 2007
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Starred Review, Booklist, October 1, 2007:
"While the stories always startle, they also often murmur about humanity's higher inclinations, including honor, compassion, and different kinds of love."
Starred Review, The Horn Book, November/December 2007:
"Lanagan's ten stories delve into the crevices of nightmare, tempation, and helplessness with a mixture of earthy dialect and inventiveness that makes this collection mesmerizing, sometimes horrifying, and occasionally funny."
About the Author
Margo Lanagan is a highly acclaimed writer of novels, short stories, and poetry. Black Juice, her second collection of stories, won a Printz Honor Award and the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection. Ms. Lanagan lives in Sydney, Australia.
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Top customer reviews
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I listed the stories below along with brief descriptions and thoughts on them. I think my favorites were Baby Jane, Hero Vale, Under Hell, Over Heaven, and Daughter of Clay. Lanagan likes to include sex and /or sexuality in her stories in way that is usual presented as uncomfortable and disturbing. Just a warning; I am always surprised these are considered YA.
Overall I would recommend the Yellowcake collection of stories over this one. I would strongly recommend Brides of Rollrock Island over all of Lanagan’s other books; I think that was by far her best book.
About a strange woman from another reality that gives birth to a baby girl. I really enjoyed this story and how the boundaries of two worlds touch each other briefly.
A tribe of captive monkeys that gets a new lead male. This was my least favorite of the bunch. I get what Lanagan is trying to do here, but I don’t enjoy reading about violent sexual assault.
A Good Heart
This was about a man whose childhood sweetheart is marrying a Lord and he finds out one of her deep dark secrets. This was an okay story, I was kind of neutral about it.
About a young girl who is kidnapped by a giant. This story had some excellent imagery in it and I enjoyed the eeriness of it.
A Feather in the Breast of God
About a sort of guardian budgie who comes back from the dead to help his family. This was an okay story, again I was pretty neutral about it.
A young man goes to Hero Vale to see the sights and ends up scarred and changed. I really enjoyed this. I love the other world our world touches in this story and how it changes the people who see it.
Under Hell, Over Heaven
About a group of people stuck in between that escort people between heaven and hell. This had a very urban fantasy feel to it. I thought it was okay but nothing all that original.
About an old healer woman who is lynched by her neighbors and has a strange ability to commune with mice. This was another story I could leave or take. Just okay.
A young girl’s mother takes her into a minor Goddess to beg safety for her sons. I loved the scenes with the Goddess and thought the island setting was interesting. Overall I enjoyed it.
Daughter of the Clay
A young woman who has always been different finds out she was swapped out at birth by faeries. I really liked this story. It was a slightly different take on the whole “swapped out by faeries at birth” theme.
Lanagan's writing is beautiful and her ideas are so endlessly creative, so all I wanted while reading these stories was to see them fully realized as feature-length works. Though short stories are, by definition, short, these stories seemed exceptionally so. They are better defined as sparse, atmospheric vignettes, captivating but woefully incomplete. I was particularly disappointed with "Under Hell, Over Heaven," my favorite of the collection, because it would have been an incredible novel. The idea is that a troop of kids living in Purgatory deliver souls to Heaven and Hell, hoping one day that their work will result in a promotion from Purgatory to Heaven. The three realms of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory are exquisitely imagined and described, but the story was too short to develop any long-term intrigue and its premature ending left me unsatisfied.
Other highlights of the collection (again, almost all of these would be wonderful scenes/starting points for novels):
-"Baby Jane," a portal story featuring childbirth in between fantasy realms.
-"A Good Heart," a medievalesque setting with focus on love and women's choices and positions in such a society.
-"Winkie," a terrifying Boogeyman type story.
-"Forever Upward," a society where a colonizing force has taken away all the men and a little girl and the remaining women must appeal to their disappeared gods for help.
Mostly, this collection made me hope that Lanagan is writing more novels. I suppose I can take solace in the fact that I have not yet read her award-winning novel Tender Morsels.