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Black Juice: 01/20/13

cover art

Black Juice by Margo Lanagan is a collection of ten short stories with a science fiction or fantasy bent. The book is oddly, as the SF Site Review notes, classified as juvenile fiction. While many of the main characters are young, it doesn't read as being specifically written for teens. As the stories are open for interpretation, I can, though, see them being used in a junior or senior high school English course.

The first story — "Singing My Sister Down" — was the stand out for me. A family goes to watch their daughter sink into the hot tar as punishment for a crime that is only vaguely described. It reminds me in terms of language and tone to Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery."

The other stories to me seemed unnecessarily vague. In afterword, Lanagan explains the inspiration for each story. Frankly, I wish I had read that first. It would have made understanding and appreciating the stories easier.

Take for example, "Pippit." It's a story of slow talking giants who miss their small human friend, whom they see as a Messiah. They want to escape to go find him. To me, the story read like the creatures were whales, perhaps. Turns out they're elephants.

To be honest, I got tired of trying to wrap my head around these stories. I didn't make it through the entire collection. Other reviewers, though, have had much better success and enjoyment from reading Black Juice.

Three stars

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