This installment: weird short stories featuring animals, grim childhood doings in England, and an amazing mystical blockbuster.
I Am An Executioner by Rajesh Parameswaran
Subtitled Love Stories, but such surprising takes on the nature of the beast, or in many cases, beasts. A tiger loves his keeper to death. There's interspecies connection between elephants and humans in one story and humans and insect-like aliens in another. (Who knew there's a language called Englaphant?) Some are placed in historical times, some are contemporary, but there's a sense of intimacy in which the protagonists address the reader with true confessions or try to set the story straight. Peculiar, disturbing, and often charming.
The Child Who by Simon Lelic
Another in the stream of childhood atrocities I keep reading about. This one, from England, features a 12-year-old murderer, Daniel, and his lawyer, Leo. It's a huge case that might catapult Leo's career, and indeed it does but with awful consequences for his own family life. Daniel refuses to speak at first and his parents are unpleasant and uncooperative. Community sentiment is grim, predictably. It's an incredible moral tangle trying to support someone who seems unredeemable, and lots of complex underpinnings about who's really at fault. Sad and thoughtful.
Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru
A mystical blockbuster, totally improbable (magical realism) but weirdly familiar. A geological formation of three spires in the Mojave desert acts like a lightning rod of sorts for many generations of pilgrims or accidental travelers over the years. (Many years, starting with 1778.) A Spanish priest reports strange goings on back then and we leapfrog through the decades, following various story threads. Much centers around a couple and their autistic son who goes missing. Alien abduction?--could be. A commune, the Ashtar Galactic Command, takes up residence, but falls on hard times and its followers wash up in degrading circumstances. Coyote moves through the story, making considerable mischief, as is his wont, and ends up exploding while cooking meth. But we all know that he's not gone for good. Lots of fun to read and I could see it as an amazing movie.
Back next Monday…