Bitter Waters

Chaz Brenchley. Lethe, $18 trade paper (252p) ISBN 978-1-59021-577-7
Derleth Award–winner Brenchley (House of Bells) charts the treacheries of the sea and the human heart in this haunting collection of new fiction and reprints, all of which emphasize queer male desire. Deceptively light, allusive titles (“Junk Male,” “ ’Tis Pity He’s Ashore,” “Villainelle”) give away little of their stories’ knotty emotional depth. The discursive, sharply detailed style permits a remarkable control of tone, from the Gothic reinventions of “Hothouse Flowers: or The Discreet Boys of Dr. Barnabus” to the aching epigrams of “Septicaemia,” the densest and most breathtaking of several stories concerned with the deaths of lovers. Recurring figures anchor the collection across its range of genres, from crime fiction to high fantasy; for example, a sailor contends with pirates and fabulous sea beasts in “Keep the Aspidochelone Afloat,” and with a broken GPS and a Bible full of ghosts in “The Boat of Not Belonging.” This clever and subtle collection, Brenchley’s first since 1996’s Blood Waters, visits 17 unforgettable ports of call. Introduction by Geoff Ryman. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/2014
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