Writer: Various edited by Ellen Datlow
Publishing House:Pegasus Books
Date of Publication:February 7th 2017
Rating: 4 stars
”But you have mistaken me, O Bird.
Can you not hear? I am the silence
and the piping and I am coming.
And it is I- I who am terrible.”
O Terrible Bird by Sandra Kasturi
Our feathered friends are amongst Nature’s most beautiful creations. They keep us company with their morning chirping, they make us feel nostalgic for the coming of winter when we see them departing for warmer climates, they herald the arrival of spring. Their bright colours and sweet song have inspired paintings and poems. Eagles are associated with power, owls with wisdom, ravens, and crows with ill omens and Death. Countless myths and fairytales have been born through our fascination with the avian kingdom. However, this is not such a collection…
Ellen Datlow has chosen stories that are set in our times, combining the human psyche and the avian. These are dark tales that focus on the bond between our supposedly sophisticated personality and the primal instincts that lurk in the dark recesses of our minds. Birds aren’t creatures of wisdom and freedom now. They have become instruments of revenge and merciless justice, punishment, and awakening. This extract from the Introduction by Ellen Datlow speaks for itself:
”And who isn’t disgusted by birds that eat the dead- vultures awaiting their next meals as the lifeblood flows from the dying. One of our greatest fear is being eaten by vultures before we’re quite dead.”
I mean, this is exciting…
These are my favourite stories in the collection:
”Outside, an owl hooted.”
The Obscure Bird by Nickolas Royle: A mysterious story of obsession, transformation, and estranged relationships.
”Sorrow, sorrow, sorrow, said the birds, and sorrow was what I got.”
The Mathematical Inevitability of Corvids by Seanan McGuire: A bright girl has to put up with her weak mother, her horrible stepfather and teachers who are unable to understand. Crows and ravens are her only comfort.
Great Blue Heron by Joyce Carol Oates: A dark, moving story of a blue heron as a metaphor for Death and a widow who tries to fight a society that wants to reduce her to a non- entity and manipulate her. A beautiful tale with successful elements of Magical Realism and an outstanding description of a graveyard.
”There was, in the Knot, a history of murder. Once every few years a body was found, always in the winter months, always after a fresh snow, the face shredded as if by claws.”
The Murmurations of Vienna Von Drome by Jeffrey Ford: A superbly terrifying, haunting winter’s story about vicious murders in a small community, birds and secrets.
Blyth’s Secret by Mike O’Driscoll: A haunting tale of a painful loss, the fragility of mental health and ravens.
The Secret of Flight by A.C.Wise: A play within a story of a mysterious disappearance, impossible relationships, and starlings.
”Now I know why my heart’s loveless. Pip’s not the aberration; I am. I’m the daughter of crows, smuggled into the nest.”
The Crow Palace by Priya Sharma: An allegory of the morbidity of crows, disappointment and womanhood.
Why the 4 stars? Because of the following abominations:
Isabel Archer Returns to Stepney In The Spring by M. John Harrison: Utter trash. Vulgar language, horrid plot. It lowered my IQ…
A Little Bird Told Me by Pat Cadigan: Why the need for such language? Do ”writers” like this one believe that a paragraph choke-full of profanities and sex innuendos is ”raw and powerful” writing? Because it isn’t. It’s garbage, that’s what it is.
This is a very interesting collection with a number of extraordinary stories and three-four average to horrid pieces of writing. Not unusual for a collection. The concept is original, combining the Paranormal, the Psychological and Urban Folklore, therefore I definitely recommend it to readers of these genres.
”Eleven is for the gates of Heaven; twelve’s for the man
who lets you in.
Thirteen is for a broken promise; fourteen’s the feathers
underneath your skin.
Fifteen is for the things we carry; sixteen’s for when we put
Seventeen’s all the lies and shadows; eighteen’s the waters
where we drown.”