on July 13, 2011 :
I really enjoyed these stories: kind of disturbing, but in a good way, if that makes any sense, and the twists are clever.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
on June 25, 2011 :
I enjoyed this collection quite a bit. Harrad's language has a pleasing efficiency that lends itself to characterization, especially in the titular story and my personal favorite, "They're Not Dead Until They Stop Talking." The clean, clear understated prose stands aside to let you immediately tangle with the surreal, bizarre and often grotesque elements. At her best, the author reminds me a fair bit of Kelly Link.
Fairytales provide recurring motifs, with Cinderella inspiring not just "Fausterella" but also "Stepmother," both of which invert the trope of the virtuous and suffering orphan (though the two stories take their inversions in very different directions). "The Wood" gives Little Red Riding Hood a similar treatment, not only changing some key details, but deepening the mystery and implying a whole forest full of symbolic victimizers, not just one hungry and anthropomorphized wolf.
That said, I think "The Soho Puppeteer" was the scariest story, operating without a folkloric resonance--just characters who matter going into inexplicable peril. I also got a big kick out of "Squirrel Killing," a piece that's 99% characterization, with just enough left out to leave haunting ambiguities at the end. (It reminded me a bit of Italo Calvino's "The Dinosaurs.")
It's not perfect: If I was talking to her face to face I'd encourage her to take more risks and give herself permission to get fully gone with the eerie or absurd premises she presents so gracefully. But is it worth two bucks? Hell, I'd have paid four.
(reviewed 10 days after purchase)