Earlier in the week I wrote about Singing my Sister Down, the first story from Black Juice, this collection. Although it is undoubtedly the best story in the collection, I enjoyed all eleven stories a lot and I am glad I read this book.
All the stories are set in a world that we think we recognise, but doesn't seem quite familiar. It's either supernatural elements, merging of cultures or bizarre events that don't happen in the 'real' world yet we are compelled to accept as reality for that particular story. For example, one is told by a group of elephants who break free and go searching for their old master because they believe something terrible must have happened to him for him to leave them. The strangeness of this story comes not only from the fact that the story is narrated by an elephant, but also the unfamiliarity of the world they describe where they attempt to rescue the man.
Also contained in the book is a story about a serial killer who is killing the upper classes (I think), who seem to make a habit of dressing up as clowns and performing. The killer is in league with another person, but there is a surprising and disturbing twist to this story. It also is the only story I think I've ever read where the sympathy lies with the killer! Another one is concerned with a funeral in a futuristic and toxic world where every journey is a major undertaking, and yet another deals with angels helping a boy see what he must do after the death of his grandmother. But the angels are not like any usually represented in literature. He's frightened of them for a start!
There were two main things that struck me about these stories. The first was that the majority of them seemed to be concerned with death, or change and if there is a thread running through the stories, it would be that the world is a huge force and impacts upon the lives of people who live on it. I think these stories try to get across the viewpoint that nature and the world will impact upon individual lives. There really is no getting away from this. The other thing I keep thinking is that it is what is not said, or explained, in these stories that is more important than what is. It is the very strangeness and unfamiliarity of these stories that makes us think about the world as a whole and how people treat each other and the world, and how the smallest of decisions can have an impact on lives.
These stories make you think. I found myself constantly trying to imagine the wider world in which the events in each story take place, and what sort of world that could be. As in Singing my Sister Down, each story has just enough about it that it is familiar to us, but then goes on to describe a world that we can't understand, although we may understand the human emotions brought about by the events.