cover image At the Mouth of the River 
of Bees

At the Mouth of the River of Bees

Kij Johnson. Small Beer (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (303p) ISBN 978-1-931520-80-5

In her first collection of short fiction, Johnson (The Fox Woman) covers strange, beautiful, and occasionally disturbing territory without ever missing a beat. Several tales take place in mythical Japan—or a place very much like it—featuring fox spirits in “Fox Magic,” a prophetic empress who acts as a tool of the gods and lives outside of time in “Empress Jingu Fishes,” and a cat carrying stories on a long journey in “The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles.” Others, such as the title story, are made stranger by their familiar contemporary settings. Her young heroes in “Ponies” and the previously unpublished “The Bitey Cat” are particularly intriguing for both their innocence and their loss of it. Johnson’s language is beautiful, her descriptions of setting visceral, and her characters compellingly drawn. These 18 tales, most collected from Johnson’s magazine publications, are sometimes off-putting, sometimes funny, and always thought provoking. (Aug.)