9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Stranger Things Happen: Stories (Paperback)
The ghost story is one of my favourite genres, so I was looking forward to reading Kelly Link's collection 'Stranger Things Happen', especially 'The Specialist's Hat', which I had heard so much about. I haven't actually finished the book, but I believe I have read enough of the stories to have some idea of the prevailing atmospheres and stylistic quirks, the kind of fantasy, or strangeness, Kelly Link engages with. The worlds she creates are quite unique, curious and sometimes very disturbing. The first story, 'Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose', contains possibly the most unsettling vision of hell I have come across, and I have come across quite a few. That's not to say I like the story or am looking forward to rereading it, because it was also rather depressing. 'The Specialist's Hat' is not depressing, and I initially found it very gripping; it built the atmosphere gradually, the characters were believable and the world created within the story settled around me with a satisfying completeness. Then things started to go awry (and not in a good way; the atmosphere became less, rather than more, disturbing). I won't spoil the story for those who haven't read it, and it is certainly worth reading. But I have a problem with ghost stories whose worlds are too erratic; stories that have too many of the characteristics of a dream or nightmare. In such a story, as in a certain kind of fairytale, it soon becomes evident that practically anything can happen, provided it is quirky or startling enough. This, for me, dissipates the density of the atmosphere; the pressure eases, the laws of the universe become all too clear and genuine surprises (nasty or otherwise) become almost impossible. But the story is engaging, there are some wonderful touches and the scraps of poetry (always risky in any story) are properly, perfectly creepy.