The Unknowable Aftershocks of Violence: A Review of Jennifer Hillier’s “Jar of Hearts”

On its surface, Jennifer Hillier’s Jar of Hearts is a thriller about a killer and those affected by his actions. However, the novel, which takes place on two different timelines, is a multilayered marvel that also explores the nature of interrupted love, looks at the result of trauma and dangerous traits that are carried in DNA, and shows the lasting impact a brutal murder can have on everyone involved in it. Furthermore, Hillier manages to pull off this plethora of […]

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Upsetting Genre, With a Side of Politics: On Nick Mamatas’s “The People’s Republic of Everything”

There’s a telling moment to be found in the history of one of the stories in Nick Mamatas’s new collection The People’s Republic of Everything, likely the only collection you’ll encounter this year that includes both a counterfactual account of Trotsky’s early days and an account of a garden gnome-turned-nuclear weapon. It comes after “Slice of Life,” a tale of a particular corner of medical research and the philosophical tangents it inspires among those involved in it.

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Where Sounds Meet Spaces, Haunted by Memory: On Cynan Jones’s “Cove”

Cynan Jones’s books tend to rest on the intersection of the interior struggles of his characters and the exterior challenges the elements present. It is only through navigating the difficulties in the natural world that the characters are able to excavate the emotional dilemmas they’re unable to process—certainly, the elements, the land, and the creatures dying at the hands of the characters are symbolic of his characters’ moods, but there is always something else happening beyond Jones’s use of setting […]

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A History of Vengeance: David Joy’s “The Line That Held Us” Reviewed

With his first two novels, Where All Light Tends to Go and The Weight of this World, David Joy established himself as one of the preeminent voices in Appalachian noir. However, he was clearly not content with that position. The Line That Held Us, his latest release, offers everything he already gave readers while commandingly treading new ground. While the narrative contains the sine qua non elements of noir and once again takes place within the context of rural Appalachian […]

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Cat Shotguns and Painted Lizards: On Sam Pink’s “The Garbage Times/White Ibis”

When you are reading an obviously autobiographical book and the author hits you with a passage about becoming a giant and using his cat as a shotgun to destroy a city, you have two options: you can stop reading immediately or take a deep breath and allow the writer to take you places you’ve never been before while fully aware that the person at the wheel may or may not be in full control of the chaos ahead…or their sanity. […]

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Identity, Paranoia, and Experimentation: A Review of Babak Lakghomi’s “Floating Notes”

Saturn Return is a hell of a thing. The 6th planet in our solar system takes just short of thirty years to blink through our night sky into the same position it occupied before. We are born wherever Saturn lives in our constellations and thirty years later they say we are born again. Saturn the fathergod of the Olympians, who Zeus took out himself, is usually depicted with a scythe in hand. As soon as an identity settles, Saturn returns […]

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Bodies, War, and Sorrow: A Review of Katie Jean Shinkle’s “Ruination”

Katie Jean Shinkle’s stirring novella, Ruination, presents the reader with an iconographical ecosystem of American sorrow. I consider it to be among the most necessary books of our time, for its channeling of contemporary psychic horrors and its candid treatment of potential societal fallout, as it documents the perennial violence stamped on the bodies of women and girls. Their bodies are distended, with dystopian speed, by vegetation and aggressive flowers. Young women exposed to this epidemic are quarantined or otherwise […]

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The Star War Against Cliché: On Malcolm Mc Neill’s “Tetra”

Science fiction abounds with stories of chosen ones, space messiahs, and figures whose stories and histories are inexorably linked to destiny. It’s made for some of the genre’s most well-known works, but it’s also served as an excuse for lazy writing and tropes that, after several decades, can feel utterly exhausting. It’s gotten to the point where the subversion of this can feel revolutionary: numerous reviews of last year’s Blade Runner 2049 singled out its handling of this trope for […]

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