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Review: Margo Lanagan's Red Spikes

You might have heard of her: Margo Lanagan, young adult author, the celebrated writer of White Time and Black Juice, one of those rare, incredible story-tellers who can tug you into a another time and place, effortlessly as pulling a string while she spins out her story.

If you haven’t heard of Ms. Lanagan, consider Red Spikes an invitation, and an imperative to read a story or two. Her latest collection of short stories, Red Spikes features a myriad of worlds: each of them unique, alive, and utterly compelling. From stories about sky-gods, to faerie-folk and parakeets, Lanagan has an incredible capacity for world building.

Baby Jane: How many writers would think to explore childbirth through the perspective of a teenage boy? Not many: and Lanagan makes it work. An odd, sweet story about birth and a sort of coming-of-age as a teenage boy midwifes a baby from a medieval world.

Monkey’s Pasternoter: The first of the animal stories of this collection. When their patriarch falls ill, a monkey clan is beset by murderous bachelors at their borders.

A Good Heart: Following his sweetheart’s wedding party, a boy named Arlen Michaels discovers his darling is…less than the angel he thought she was, and what her new husband believes her to be.

Winkie: There’s a monster preying on children who don’t stay in their beds. Absolutely ghoulish.

Hero Vale: Near an academy ruled by Bully Raglan and his cronies, knights from other worlds wage epic battles against each other.

A Feather in the Breast of God: A pet bird returns to save the troubled daughter of its human family. Dedicated to the memory of several parakeets in Lanagan’s family’s keeping, this is a gentle and wonderful story.

Under Hell over Heaven: Lanagan’s deeply, deeply unsettling take on Catholic constructions of heaven, hell and purgatory. Four teammates traverse purgatory from the edge of heaven to the edge of hell, to bring a Miscreant soul to his proper destination.

Mouse Maker: When a witch is battered by a mob, her friend and neighbour deals with the aftermath on having failed to protect her.

Forever Upward: In a world ruled by the Churchmen, Curija and her mother set out to hook a sky-god to save their men, and their people. Lovely and haunting, and Lanagan creates this immense feeling of *awe* for this alien, unfamiliar thing.

Daughter of the Clay: A changeling girl seeks out her earthly counterpart to restore each of them to their rightful places.


Fantasy fiction that's out of the ordinary

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