Thursday, October 11, 2007
Magazine Review: Subterranean #7
It's past midnight but what am I doing up so late? Well I just finished reading Subterranean Magazine Issue #7, and it's one of those must-reads that hook you 'til your done. In many ways, short story magazines are like mini-anthologies in the sense that they're driven by the sensibilities of the editor(s). In this particular issue, Ellen Datlow takes charge and the stories featured do reflect her sensibilities (it's either that or the authors themselves adapt to the editor herself but you end up with the same product anyway). Each story not only has something fantastical but it also has something dark and foreboding as well.
First up is "Old Mr. Boudreaux" by Lisa Tuttle. Seems like a conventional realist character driven story and Tuttle slowly builds up to the end, the encounter with the enigmatic Mr. Boudreaux. Characterization and style is easily Tuttle's strength in this piece but the ending is astounding as well as the reader ponders on what's implied.
"The King of the Big Night Hours" by Rick Bowes is my least favorite story but that doesn't mean that it's not a well-crafted one. In fact, the first few pages got me hooked but it's just the style and theme that let me down. Bowes gives us his unique take on the ghost story and it's anything but typical. A part of me wished it ended differently but it was a good read nonetheless.
"Under the Bottom of the Lake" by Jeffrey Ford has great pacing and build-up. As usual, Ford enamors us with his lovely prose and characterization. This isn't Ford's best piece but it's up there in the list of highly recommended reading. I mean "The Night Whiskey" is the short story that's appearing in 2007 anthologies but I prefer this one.
"City of Night" by Joel Lane and John Pelan has this interesting concept and has an air of mystery about it. The pair don't dazzle us with flowery words unlike the other authors but they make up for it in plot and delivery. Overall a mediocre story, nothing that really stands out in either direction.
"Holiday" by M. Rickert could have passed for a realist story and I don't mean that in a bad way. The Sixth Sense I think has become a part of the modern zeitgeist and one can't help but think of that movie when reading "Holiday" but Rickert manages to make this story her own and shows to us that horror isn't always something external.
"The Jeweller of Second-Hand Roe" by Anna Tambour, upon some deliberation, is my favorite story in the magazine. With some adeptness she manages to narrate a short yet compelling story that implies more than reveals. Those who have weak stomachs might shy away from this story and while it's no Palahniuk fiction, "The Jeweller of Second-Hand Roe" is quite visceral.
"Pirates of the Somali Coast" by Terry Bisson would probably be a runner-up for my favorite story in the magazine. Behind its seemingly playfulness is a very serious story. The set-up is good and the style is a stark contrast to what's actually being narrated. Also bonus points for using pirates! In modern times!
"Vacancy" by Lucius Shepard is a novella that caught me off guard. Shepard occasionally alludes to the Philippines in some of his short stories and I thought this would be the case in this story but apparently my country plays a bigger role in this piece. Set in modern times, "Vacancy" has that down-to-earth feel that's reminiscent of Shepard's other stories. In retrospect, the title is also apt as vacancy becomes a recurring theme. Overall an enjoyable read that has that crime and horror vibe all throughout.