The Janus Tree and Other Stories
by Glen Hirshberg
Review by Mario Guslandi
Subterranean Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596064089
Date: 31 October 2011 List Price $40.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
To me Glen Hishberg continues to represent an unfathomable puzzle. Some of his stories are quite memorable (“American Morons”, to mention just one), others are dull and disappointing. He manages, with the same ease, either to bore me to death or to charge me up with adrenaline. The present collection is no exception.
Indeed the Shirley Jackson Award-winning title story "The Janus Tree" is an accomplished, enigmatic piece--featuring small town kids trying hard to come to terms with the facts of lif--where the reality is deformed and transformed in an effective, slightly surrealistic way.
"I Am Coming To Live In Your Mouth" provides a sad, grim tableau centered on the deathbed of a cancer patient, where life and death disintegrate and nightmares take shape in a kaleidoscope of strong, vivid images.
In the spellbinding "Miss Ill-Kept Runt" unspoken family secrets are disclosed in an obscure but very captivating writing style.
The Offbeat and distressing "Esmeralda" gloomily depicts a world in which books are locked in depositories and book hunters risk their health and sanity in the attempt to retrieve them and bring them back for the benefit of the human society.
"The Nimble Men", probably the best story in the volume, is an atmospheric, superb tale set aboard an aircraft ready for a take-off which never comes.
The remaining six stories (including the tedious "Shomer", unaccountably selected by editor Ellen Datlow for her latest The Best Horror of the Year anthology) are, in my opinion, unconvincing, flimsy pieces of fiction revolving around non-existent or hazy plots, often told in a slack narrative style. Which is a shame because, believe me, when at his best, Hishberg is one of the greatest contemporary authors of dark fantasy.