Gifts for the One Who Comes After
By: Helen Marshall
Format/Source: Won an eCopy via Twitter giveaway contest held by ChiZine Publications
Ghost thumbs. Microscopic dogs. One very sad can of tomato soup . . . Helen Marshall’s second collection offers a series of twisted surrealities that explore the legacies we pass on to our children. A son seeks to reconnect with his father through a telescope that sees into the past. A young girl discovers what lies on the other side of her mother’s belly button. Death’s wife prepares for a very special funeral. In Gifts for the One Who Comes After, Marshall delivers eighteen tales of love and loss that cement her as a powerful voice in dark fantasy and the New Weird. Dazzling, disturbing, and deeply moving.
I first heard of this author from an online interview I conducted with Robert Shearman a few years ago (review). Her first collection, Hair Side, Flesh Side was close to publication day, and her stories sounded intriguing and weird, in keeping with ChiZine Publications’ genre. It’s still on my wish-to-read list, but in the meantime I had the opportunity to read her latest collection thanks to the publishers via a Twitter giveaway contest they recently held…very timely too as Hallowe’en is around the corner and the stories in this collection are perfect for this time of year 😉
Gifts for the One Who Comes After is an interesting mix of stories. A lot of it is in the first-person narrative, but many of the later stories are set in the third-person, some even at the second-person, all of which adds to the eclecticism of the stories featured. They can be eerie, disturbing, and haunting, but a central theme that brings all of these stories together is that they feature the subject of family and the interpersonal relationships, whether it be with a lover or a friend or a community. A lot of the stories also feature themes of life, making decisions and sticking to them, anxieties about growing up and new family members coming along, etc.
Intermingled with these stories are elements of magic and the weird featured with the everyday. As a result, it makes the former feel like an everyday occurrence of the world a particular story takes place in, which is very interesting. As expected from a collection featuring “the weird”, there’s also a lot of grimness and death. Some scenarios may disturb readers.
Like any other short story collection, there were some stories that intrigued me more than others. Some where a little confusing, like “The Brief History of Science Fiction,” which I wasn’t sure where the story was headed plot-wise. Some of the stories from this collection that stood out for me would have to be “Secondhand Magic,” “I’m the Lady of Good Times, She Said,” “In the Year of Omens,” and my favourite from the batch, “Death and the Girl from Pi Delta Zeta.”
I would recommend this short story collection for readers of short stories, and readers of horror, fantasy, science fiction, and the new weird, Oh, and if you’re looking for a haunting read close to Hallowe’en 😉
Thanks again to ChiZine Publications for the great giveaway and the opportunity to read this book!