cover image From the Neck Up and Other Stories

From the Neck Up and Other Stories

Aliya Whiteley. Titan, $15.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-78909-475-6

This outstanding, Gothic-tinged collection of 16 stories from Whiteley (Skyward Inn) shimmers with visceral, bodily prose, powerful ecological themes, and multifaceted explorations of human connection and aging. Anchor novella “Brushwork” is the unqualified star, unspooling complex power dynamics as “agro-terrorists” seize a corporate organic farm manned by elderly indentured workers. The resulting tangled class and power struggle is reminiscent of P.D. James. The depth of Whiteley’s ideas and the care she takes with them elevate the collection’s shorter works, as well, imbuing the utopian “Farleyton” with a studied compassion, using “Many-Eyed Monsters” to probe the “fight between the desire and the disgust of sickness,” and turning the title story, in which a laid-off woman discovers a decapitated head, into a gentle exploration of vocation. Whiteley’s sharp eye for human nature pinpoints both wryness and despair but always avoids cruelty, raising difficult questions and never settling for easy answers. Readers of Jeff Vandermeer, Meg Ellison, and Jeffrey Ford will love this complex, grotesque, and brilliantly humanistic collection. (Sept.)