Red Spikes

Nominated for a 2007 Cybil in Fantasy and Sci Fi.

Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan.

This third book of short stories by Lanagan demonstrates exactly how short story collections should work.  I consider Lanagan a student of Ray Bradbury, whose short story collections filled my teenage summers.  Like Bradbury, Lanagan takes a supernatural or science fiction genre and delicately creates stories that within a few short pages create entire worlds.  Lanagan’s stories are surprising, wondrous and at times quite horrific. 

One never quite knows where the story is headed, when the twist is coming, or if there will be a twist at all.  It makes the reading of the stories a very dynamic and engaging activity.  Unlike novels, there is no settling in with characters, no constant narration, no ground to rest on.  Here there is only the whirl of worlds, the dance of planets, and possibilities to explore. 

Lanagan excels at taking complex worlds and distilling them into an instance that speaks to their enormity.  She can create characters you care deeply about within a few paragraphs.  Her skill with this limiting form is astounding as her prose remains light and accessible while revealing so much more underneath.  There is a crystalline beauty to the stories as they chime together to a greater whole. 

Recommended for teens willing to try short stories.  These stories should be offered side-by-side with Bradbury’s as a recommendation.