Despite the odd title of this anthology of urban fiction, Crucified Dreams represents a solid collection of interesting storytelling. I've said it before here on this blog that Joe Lansdale is, for my money, one of the most consistent writers in the business for my tastes. I've never put one of his books down after starting it, and I find most of his offerings to trend toward the high limits of the quality scale.
He proves he's no slouch here as an editor as well.
Most of these are dark, dark tales. As he states in the introduction, the only thing these tales really share is a climate of originality, and there is that in spades here. There's a little fantastic whimsy in stories like Ellen Klages's "Singing on a Star" (makes one wonder about the family down the street--and the ominous record or toy your son or daughter might bring home after a play date).
There's brutal, no-hold-barred stories like "The Pit," by the editor, and "Quitters, Inc.," by Stephen King. Tom Piccirilli's "Loss" reminds me of the surreal, dark output that I've been reading by Laird Barron.
My favorite story in this fine collection is "Coffins on the River," by Jeffrey Ford. Ford's ability to nail the protagonists' character and flesh them out with real pathos is enviable. I also really enjoyed the subtleties exhibited by the nuanced storyteller. Ford, in one passage, mentions the tale's central redeeming plot conflict in such a cursory manner that, when we re-encounter it in the story's third act, the redemption is all the sweeter for the reader. It's masterful narrative.
Lucius Shepard's "Beast of the Heartland" is a startling tale--the writing is crisp and beautiful, the characters three-dimensional and round.
There are fine stories here by Octavia E. Butler, Joe Haldeman and Michael Bishop. Very good anthology, and highly recommended.
Now off to class...
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