Gifts for the One Who Comes After
by Helen Marshall
Review by Mario Guslandi
ChiZine Publications Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781771483025
Date: 16 September 2014 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Following her stunning debut collection Hair Side, Flesh Side, Canadian author Helen Marshall returns with a second collection assembling seventeen new dark stories.
The present volume confirms in full the impressions I had about her previous book. Marshall is an extremely talented, wonderful writer, whose enormous potential is not always properly employed.
Some stories are exceptionally good, other pieces (especially those where the surrealistic tone is the veneer of a weak plot) incredibly disappointing. Thus, the author offers once again a very mixed bag of precious jewels and mediocre stuff.
Let me mention the jewels, which are indeed invaluable.
"I'm the Lady of Good Times, She Said" is a splendid tale of love and betrayal with a supernatural, ghostly undercurrent.
"All My Love, a Fishhook" is an excellent, moving tale about fatherhood, with its joys and its troubles, and the difficulty to love and to be loved.
In the obscure and disquieting "Secondhand Magic", magic shapes the existences of a young boy and of a woman, affecting their feelings and distorting the reality in which they live; whereas in the puzzling but fascinating "In the Year of Omens" a teenager has to face, besides the usual growing pains, some unfathomable mysteries.
The tell-tale title "A Brief History of Science Fiction" heralds an offbeat SF piece with an unusually introspective approach putting human feelings at the very center of the universe.
My favorite story is "The Zhanell Adler Brass Spyglass", an insightful,poignant tale revolving around a special device which allows a teenager to look at the past and the future of his parents and to discover secrets which would better remain unknown.
Once again, when Marshall is good, she's truly outstanding. That's why I keep expecting much more from her.