This week’s post is dedicated to mini reviews of the freaky and fantastic stories from the Where the Weird Things Are – Volume 1 anthology. I might be biased, since my own story Weathering is included, but I’ve loved reading all the tales from Australian and Aotearoan authors.
Below you’ll find Part 1 of 2, since there are fourteen stories to discuss. The rest will be available on Friday.
Short Story Reviews
The Iron Ship by E.H. Alger
Port Melbourne, 1947. An old sailor searches for a berth for the night, and is swept up by a cursed tale on a cursed ship…
The imagery of this story was dark, damp, depressing—perfect for the setting. A worn, downtrodden Fishermen’s Bend of yesteryear comes alive on the page, and I found myself hunching from the cold same as William Laney, the sailor trying to find a bed, trying to keep away from the ocean’s constant lure. A wonderful opening story for the anthology, just as it would be a terrifying opener to a dark night around a fire.
”It’s an ugly part of town, south of the river, a scramble of factories and warehouses, concrete and corrugated iron, rust and rot…”
A Beechy Boy by Clare Rhoden
“He wanted to show her things up here. Things that look best at dawn or dusk…”
The lush undergrowth of the Otway Ranges hides treacherous footing and a secret past. For Ellie, her mother-and-son holiday isn’t going quite as planned.
A devastating story told with heart and, again, a real sense of place coming alive on the page.
The Caretaker by Austin P. Sheehan
“Nowhere is a person more themselves than when they’re alone” thinks the unnamed narrator, a young man whose punishment for his evil deeds is to spend the off-season taking care of a chalet in the wilds of Mt Buffalo.
Yet, more evil lurks nearby. Sheehan’s tale of nightly horrors and retribution left me with the lingering thoughts of the narrator: where does the greatest darkness lie?
Rivulet by Madeleine D’Este
”At one a.m on a wintry Wednesday, the town was abandoned to the whims of the night. Every curtain and every eyelid closed, everyone asleep but her.”
A late-night walk in deserted Hobart streets was “inspired by hauntology, Hookland, Arthur Machen, psychogeography and land spirits” says Madeleine D’Este of her story. I loved it for the brooding drizzle, the sense of lurking dread, and the speeding of my pulse along with the narrative…
Here Kitty Kitty by Eva Leppard
Elliana’s cat Jelly Meat has fur and feathers… but that’s just how they make cats in the Huon Valley. Right?
”She had always been told not to go there, not to walk into those trees because they didn’t stop and once you were deep enough, chances were that no one would find you until your bones were bleached white from the elements—if the Tassie devils left anything of you at all.”
Anyone who’s read my cryptozoologist series know I love a good mystery. And cats. Sold.
(Image by Tasmanian.Kris on Flickr)
Sign Me Up by Emily Wrayburn
”Three numbers were programmed into the phone, but none had real names saved against them. Natasha was never sure whose voice she was about to hear when a call came through.”
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. Here there be monsters. Along with a government intent on extermination, and a group of activists intent on saving creatures who are only guilty of living…
As a former Greenpeace member myself, I loved the action and outcome of this piece. Wish I could fly in Natasha’s helicopter, too.
Saltbush Blue by Faran Silverton
“… from here it’s nothing but saltbush and dirt all the way to the nothingness of outback New South Wales shifting into South Australia, where the summer sun bakes the uneven road into a shimmer from one edge of the skyline to the other.”
Silverton’s story of mechanics and machinations, the unexpected and unexplainable, was a joy to read. I loved the inclusive characters, and the colourful descriptions that conjured Australia’s outback like the dust was waiting for me just outside the door. Along with that big blue sky.
Image: NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
~ Part 2 of this post continues on Friday ~
Images in this post are copyright free or attributed as required. Header image of traffic lights by Lucas Zimmerman on Behance.