Book Review: The New Weird Anthology
Compilation of Many Authors
Genre: Weird Fiction
Page Count: 414
You are now entering the Spoiler Zone
The old saying “that normal is just a setting on a washing machine” has always helped guide my reading choices. So naturally when I saw a wonderful looking anthology called “The New Weird” I had to check it out. Going in I was oblivious to the fact that “The New Weird” wasn’t just the book’s title, but also the name of the literary movement that all the stories inside either belong to or helped inspire.
For those of you interested the book begins with a short essay by one of the books editors about the origins and effects of “The New Weird” along with several essays and discussions about the scene near the end of the book. While this was helpful I’m personally not very invested in any in-depth discussions about any scene or genre. This isn’t due to lack of interest but merely due to the fact that specifically detailing what a particular genre is “supposed” to be, tends to create a host of obnoxious detractors who decry anything that steps outside the borders as heresy. This, in turn, leads to everyone imitating each other and choking any creativity faster than a Lego’s choke a toddler. What were helpful, were the indexes of recommended authors and books, these are a godsend for anyone looking for more stories by the new author they found thru”The New Weird”.
With that said here are the basic facts about “The New Weird”: These are strange stories that take place in impossible places with bizarre characters, realism and normal behavior take a back seat to creativity and imagination and most finally sex, violence, and any other taboo subject aren’t simply allowed, they’re encouraged. Now let’s get to the stories themselves. Do to the large amount of stories I will cover the ones I think represent the best and worst of “The New Weird”.
“The Braining of Mother Lamprey” by Simon D. Ings: If the some story’s can be expanded on then “The Braining of Mother Lamprey” should be expanded on. Ings creates a very interesting world here. A world where magic has supplanted technology and life has become more powerful than death. For example, a woman’s leg is severed late in the story and it actually comes to life soon afterward. It even grows feathers claws and a mouth, as it grows becomes a new animal. The background universe is extremely interesting (if set up a little poorly) and compliments the story. That story involves a magical apprentice getting dragged into a magical murder conspiracy while trying to get some time alone with his girlfriend. “The Braining of Mother Lamprey” is both bizarre and fun to read with characters you can relate to and an ending twist you’ll never see coming. This was one of my favorite stories in the book and I would definitely by a book in this setting.
“The Neglected Garden” by Kathe Koja: This is one of the shorter and simpler stories in the book. It’s about a man who tries to breaks up with his girlfriend while she wants to keep the relationship going. In a bizarre turn, he finds her stuck in the back garden, slowly transforming into a strange plant. At first he panics and shows concern but in one of the most bizarre reactions in the book (and that’s saying a lot) he decides that this is just her way of making trouble for him, so he decides to just ignore her. This story wasn’t very interesting to me, it was short enough not to become annoying but way too short for any story to develop. “The Neglected Garden” never really gets going and you won’t miss anything by skipping it.
“Jack” by China Mieville: Before I started “The New Weird” I heard That China Mieville was an author who deserved attention and after reading “Jack” I know why. “Jack” takes place in a bizarre otherworldly city (a favorite of the New Weird in general and Mieville in particular) called New Crobuzon. Our narrator tells the story of the rise and fall of Jack-half-a-prayer, who after being subjected to a bizarre surgical punishment called remaking, became a famous thief and hero to the New Crobuzons underclass. This story had me hooked from the first page, its setting was interesting, its characters were appealing and its premise was weird enough to draw me in and normal enough to be easily read. Even the ending which in hindsight, should have been totally predictable, caught me by surprise due to how engrossed I was with the story. “Jack” gets a big recommendation from me, Read it and spread the word.
“Watson’s Boy” by Brian Evenson: This was definitely my least favorite of all the stories. The story revolves around a young man (the titular Watsons boy) who along with his strange father and invalid mother is trapped in a seemingly endless set of gloomy intersecting hallways. Aside from the family’s rooms and their shared kitchen, every door is locked despite the keys that are hung up on every interest. The young man spends his days trying to map the hallways and collecting keys despite knowing his task is almost certainly impossible. That’s about it for the plot, despite being one of the longer stories we never get any answers or any real insight into who these characters are or why they’re here. I certainly don’t expect all the answers from any of these stories because A, they’re short stories and B. they’re weird fiction, where strange triumphs over sense but at least give me some small view into what makes these characters tick. If “Watsons Boy” reminded me of anything it’s a half-finished Franz Kafka novel, only not as good. We have all the bleak absurdity that Kafka was famous for but none of the personal insight or deeper meaning. “Watsons Boy” is either an unfinished novel or an overlong short story. Whichever it is, I recommend you just skip it.
“The New Weird” was a bit frustrating for me. While there were some superb stories by excellent writers, there were others that just did nothing for me at all. Still, I don’t regret reading it and I would recommend it to anyone interested in weird fiction. If you find this lovely little anthology in your local library go ahead and give it a look.
Did I like the book: Yes
Would I read it again: Yes
Would I buy it: No
Any tips for celebrating Columbus day: I always try to go to India to celebrate but for some reason, I always end up in the wrong place