Strange California

Edited by Jason Batt and Jaym Gates. Falstaff, $15.99 trade paper (408p) ISBN 978-0-9906385-8-2
Gates and Batt, recognizing the utter weirdness of the Golden State, have put together a generally solid crowdfunded anthology that shows the range of both the state and their large group of authors. There’s an initial misstep; Seanan McGuire’s “The Great Tarantula Migration of 1972” undercuts its fantastic title with two lazy and cliché-ridden opening paragraphs and a story that’s less homage to Shirley Jackson than weak imitation. Fortunately, that’s the low point, and highlights are many. Tim Pratt’s take on the Lake Merritt Monster, “A Sea Monster in the Bathtub,” is witty, political, and surprising. Melissa Monks delivers a short and powerful take on California’s frequent droughts in “The Hanging Tree’s Shade,” while Nick Mamatas’s “The Kodiak Bell” explores San Francisco’s Mission District in a tale combining punk, religion, and an ending that’s simultaneously profane and holy. Marion Deeds’s “Magpie’s Curse” is a clever fable that explores the titular curse’s effect on a small town. As with many regional books, readers with California roots might find a little more to bite into here, but the tales generally will work regardless of the reader’s familiarity with the state. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/14/2017
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