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Lucy Sussex is Australian, and I first bought some of her books (and met her in person) at the 1999 Worldcon in Melbourne. I have held a high regard for her work whenever I encountered it since, and I picked this up on sight in a convention dealers room (probably World Fantasy Con in Brighton in late 2013). This collects twenty-five stories, a total of about 150,000 words, originally published from 1985 through 2011, with introduction by Delia Sherman and intriguing afterword by Sussex herself. This alternated with Alison Uttley on my bedside table, providing a complete contrast both to Uttley and to the quick, easy sf ebooks I have been reading on the move over the past few months.

These stories are lush and lovely, and sometimes opaque, and offer a very wide range of genre interest. Sussex makes her reader work hard to take her meaning from the story, as a rule, though they vary in their degrees of obscurity. My favourites remind me of Rudyard Kipling in their ability to tell multiple stories and talk about the telling with the same words. Merlusine (1997, sf) deals with a search for love and music; God and Her Black Sense of Homour (1990, also sf, perhaps) tells a story about writing a story; and Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies (1998, well, fantasy I suppose) plays with the making of a myth. There is a very strong strand of sardonic and very literary feminism here, and I loved watching Katherine Burdekin meeting Philip K. Dick in Kay and Phil (1997, sf or fantasy or both?), and the appealing homage to a Victorian novelist I had never heard of (Mary Fortune) in Mist and Murder (2007, mystery, sf). The same level of skill is present, although I am less keen on the results, when she works with horror tropes  in La Sentinelle (2003) and Matricide (2005); and I didn't much care, either, for My Lady Tongue (1988) for reasons I am not altogether sure I fully understand.

Sussex's afterword is written in the form of an internet meme, 25 questions answered, briefly, by reference to the 25 stories. Reading these, I find myself thinking it would be very interesting to reread in chronological order of the writing...which is one of so many interesting things that isn't going to happen but I would love it if someone else would do that and write about it for me. And I loved God and Her Black Sense of Humour so much that I gave it to Brian to read, and he didn't get it at all. Oh well.

Recommended. (tamaranth I think would probably enjoy this).


Caroline M

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