True confessions time — How many of you have bought a book based solely on the power of the author’s tweets?
Although I had read Carmen Maria Machado’s story “The Husband Stitch”, really it was her strong Twitter game that inspired me to pre-order her short story collection “Her Body and Other Parties.” She had a lot of insightful things to say about topics I cared about, and I wanted to support that.
This doesn’t always turn out well for me, by the way. There are lots of people who are great on Twitter but terrible novelists. But hey, what’s $10 here and there on books I don’t actually enjoy, if it allows people to keep doing what they do?
Luckily, I did enjoy this collection. It starts with the aforementioned “The Husband Stitch” and then proceeds to offer several other stories that I had not read yet, of various lengths but all suitable to be read in a single sitting each (if you’re willing to dedicate up to an hour to finishing a short story).
Machado’s work has a hint of sci-fi/fantasy flavor. You won’t find space ships or portals into magical worlds in this collection. You will find a plague wiping out most of the population, and ghostly figures possessing dresses. Each story stars a human being living in modern-day earth, so there’s no time wasted on world building. We get straight to the character and the weirdness. Those looking for more traditional SF/F will probably be disappointed, but those who just like good fiction with or without a touch of the unusual will be pleased.
Those who prefer their stories neatly wrapped up in a bow will also want to give this one a pass. Like many short story authors, Machado leaves it up to you to answer some of the central questions about the scenario you’ve just read. There’s no explanations for why things happen, no clarification about whether someone has some magical insight or a mental illness that makes them believe they do. These stories will make you think.
My favorite story in the collection was “The Resident” because it pretty much summed up my belief of what it would really be like to be chosen to be part of some sort of residency at an artist’s retreat.
Pros: Queer protagonists, short stories are easy to read in one sitting, good way to ease your non-genre-reading loved ones into SF/F.
Cons: May be too “literary” for some tastes, several stories were previously published elsewhere.
Final verdict: After reading this you’ll probably wish you could meet the author at a cocktail party and make awkward conversation.
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