Saturday, August 19, 2006

Black Juice, by Margo Lanagan

In a diverse set of ten short stories and ten different worlds, we are introduced to a family executing their own daughter, a girl who can't make it to the church on time, and a series of different people suffering through plagues, storms, and other calamities. In short, each story provides a snapshot of a young person coming to terms with their environment.

Some of the stories are outstanding but it is the laziest form of storywriting to create a short story in an exotic locale. Langan creates characters with backstory and settings with deep culture, but as each one is a fantasy setting, it is fairly easy work. The difficulty would have been in expanding any of these stories into a novel, and from this collection, we have no indication that she could pull that off. Beyond that, it become tiresome to have to plod through so many different settings and characters in one book. If the stories had stood out as different from each other, it wouldn't be a problem (after all, any anthology presents the challenge), but these stories just sound the same after a while.

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