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Red Spikes

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Margo Lanagan's electrifying stories take place in worlds not quite our own, and yet each one illuminates what it is to be human. They are stories of yearning for more, and learning to live with what you have. Stories that show the imprint love leaves on us all.

If you think you don't like short fiction, that a story can't have the depth or impact of a novel, then you haven't read Margo Lanagan. A writer this startling and this original doesn't come along very often. So for anyone who likes to be surprised, touched, unsettled, intrigued, or scared senseless, prepare to be dazzled by what a master storyteller can do in a few short pages.

224 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2006

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About the author

Margo Lanagan

104 books612 followers
Margo Lanagan, born in Waratah, New South Wales, is an Australian writer of short stories and young adult fiction.

Many of her books, including YA fiction, were only published in Australia. Recently, several of her books have attracted worldwide attention. Her short story collection Black Juice won two World Fantasy Awards. It was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and the United Kingdom by Gollancz in 2004, and in North America by HarperCollins in 2005. It includes the much-anthologized short story "Singing My Sister Down".

Her short story collection White Time, originally published in Australia by Allen & Unwin in 2000, was published in North America by HarperCollins in August 2006, after the success of Black Juice.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 147 reviews
Profile Image for Nancy.
557 reviews786 followers
December 4, 2015
Posted at Shelf Inflicted

After being blown away by Black Juice, I was eager to read more of Margo Lanagan’s short story collections. So off I went to the library and found a lovely hardcover edition of Red Spikes, received by the library on October 16, 2008. It appeared to be untouched and I confirmed this by looking at the shiny cover free of finger smudges and listening to the crackling noises of its spine as I gently opened it, fanning its pages under my nose and sniffing so deeply it was almost a snort. Then I had a nearly uncontrollable urge to nibble the spine before I finally came to my senses and realized I was holding library property…

The stories in this collection are dark, unsettling and moody, and explore a variety of themes. Once again, Lanagan has succeeded in engaging the emotions of this reader by creating rich, imaginative worlds and believable young characters who struggle, learn and grow.

I recommend these stories for readers who love dark fantasy and smart young-adult fiction.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,404 reviews11.7k followers
June 3, 2010
Writing short stories is not easy. As much as I like, let's say, Kelley Armstrong, her anthologies Men of the Otherworld and Tales of the Otherworld are not really collections of short stories. They are collections of scenes in the lives of her characters and nothing more.

Lanagan, on the other hand, is a great short story writer. Her stories remind me a lot of the works of one of my favorite writers (and IMO the greatest writer of short stories) - Guy de Maupassant, not thematically, but in the quality. Both excel at creating very short (not more than 10-15 pages) and pointed stories, all with rich backgrounds, deep characterization and climaxes that leave you pondering on the complexities of human nature.

Red Spikes consists of 10 stories of life, death, love, violence, and courage, each is laced with supernatural but ultimately illuminating humanity. My favorite stories in the collection are "Monkey's Paternoster," in which female monkeys in a harem-like group endure the rivalries of alpha males, and "Under Hell, Over Heaven" where characters in purgatory witness a soul's descent into hell.

Just like Lanagan's Printz Honor winning novel Tender Morsels, Red Spikes will not appeal to all readers. The stories have an air of weirdness about them, the language is complex and a lot of patience is required to acclimate to each story's fresh setup. However existing fans of the writer and those who, like me, have a taste for strange and bizarre are sure to enjoy this book. I will definitely check out Margo Lanagan's other short story collections - Black Juice and White Time.
919 reviews255 followers
August 27, 2020
Story by story is the only way I can do this.

Baby Jane

A baby is being born somewhere in the Australian outback - but her midwife is unusual and her mother may not be from this world.

Eerie but lovely, the twist comes early on and the rest of the story is how the main character copes with that twist. This could be the prologue of a long, dark fantasy tale, but as a short story it's near perfect! Tantalising, makes you think long and hard after the last word has been read. 4.5/5

Monkey's Paternoster

The patriarch is dying.

This was a shock. Coming straight from the previous story, where everyone is pretty solidly some form of human, it took me a good while to realise that "Monkey's Paternoster" wasn't just a quirky title. It's raw and relentless and harsh and I didn't exactly enjoy it, but can't deny it's a good story. 3/5

A Good Heart

Elusive and bittersweet. 3/5


This giant is no BFG.

As dark as its nocturnal setting, and likely to become more terrifying with multiple reads. Margo Lanagan can write some truly disturbing imagery, and there's one moment that won't fade (I wish it would). There seems to be a slight theme running here - a little maternal, a little child-based. But is so then this is the darkest side of childhood. 4/5

A Feather in the Breast of God

And right on the heels of the deepest, most disturbing darkness comes this angelic little tale. A bird (pet budgie, in fact) comes back after death to save a beloved family member. It's really not as twee as it sounds, I promise. And yet something in the first-person narrative put me off just that little bit... 3.5/5

Hero Vale

Not for the squeamish. 2/5

And the rest of the book has gone by in a skim-read blur.
Feeling a little let down, to end so dully after such a strong start.
Profile Image for Rhea.
215 reviews76 followers
July 10, 2013
Margo Lanagan is a master of darkness. Her vision is one of the most original and powerful in the Young Adult genre; it uses the whimsical, dark, and bizarre to explore real, human themes.

Lanagan paints her vision with artful language. Her scenes and images intrigue, unsettle, and even baffle the reader - each word is chosen carefully, so, as Kirkus Reviews said in their review, each sentence has the effect of a stone in a still pond.

These ten short stories are about love, life, belonging, pain, loss, and heroism, conveyed through otherworldly frames. However, they're definitely not for everyone. First of all, they're all very short (9-19 pages) so some readers might feel cheated. Secondly, the language can be confusing; reading requires patience, which might turn some readers off. But mostly, the stories themselves will be too weird to be appreciated by some - they can be so bizarre, the readers might not see the beauty because of the weirdness.

But for more mature readers, this collection is a real treat.

Here is a brief review of each story:

Baby Jane - This first story is a terrific opener to the collection. It's dreamlike, mysterious, and can be interpreted in many ways; to me, it was about how our origins always stay with us in one way or another. (4.5 stars)

Monkey's Paternoster - (Trigger warning: semi-graphic rape) The shortest story at 9 pages, this one is remarkably layered. It explores the price of power and how some people you might consider great are actually just as lowly as those your society condemns. The other aspects are great: the plot is exciting, the emotional impact is great, and the worldbuilding and culture are well-drawn. A new favorite of mine. (4.5 stars)

A Good Heart - A beautiful, sad exploration of what it means forgive someone after they've broken your heart. The entire story focuses on a choice, so it takes a bit of patience to get to any sort of conflict. However, there's a bit of mystery to propel it forward, and the choice is complex and emotionally challenging. (4 stars)

Winkie - I didn't get this one. It's a scary interpretation of the nursery rhyme "Wee Willie Winkie," and has a great, likable main character. However, the writing in the beginning was a bit confusing, and the ending didn't make much sense. I still liked it though. (3 stars)

A Feather in the Breast of God - I have no idea what to think of this one. It's certainly good, but my emotions are baffled - Should I cry? Should I be happy? Should I be touched? - but in the best way possible. If I am to nitpick, I'd like to point out that at one point, the language is overly convoluted. (excerpt below under the spoiler tag) (3.5 stars)

Hero Vale - I couldn't connect to this one, mostly because I've never been bullied (lucky me!) and because I couldn't connect to the characters. It also confused me, but unlike some of the others, I had no urge to understand it better. Luckily, some other reviewers have stated it was their favorite/ one of their favorites, so it's likely me, and I recommend you see for yourself. (2.5 stars? no idea)

Under Heaven, Over Hell - I interpreted this story partly as a criticism of the black and white idea of Heaven and Hell, and partly as an exploration of human emotion (however, others might see it differently). The characters here good people, yet have to suffer in a horrible, emotionless, feelingless Limbo because they weren't believers in life (which reminded me a little of the Land of the Dead in The Amber Spyglass.) The worldbuilding was well-wrought, the plot intriguing, and the story layered (that's why I think my interpretation might be different than the author intended - it is what it is probably because I recently read His Dark Materials.) (4 stars)

Mouse Maker - Another one I didn't get. I think it's about the consequences of wrongly accusing someone and of meddling in someone else's problems and things. Still engrossing, though, and I liked it. (3 stars)

Forever Upward - My favorite of the collection. Lanagan's prose is lovely as ever, complementing a beautiful story: a story about families, communities, and loved ones; about what it means to be conquered, and the pain of losing your old ways; and ultimately, about hope, and remembering your old culture. Probably one of my favorite shorts of all time. (And I love the name Currija!) (5 stars)

Daughter of the Clay - Most authors write about changelings to make their characters Special Cookies; Lanagan uses the premise of changelings to show what it's like to belong to two worlds and to never completely fit in to either of them. While the actual reason there are changelings is never explained and thus feels contrived, the beauty of the language and the realness of the emotion makes it a wonderful read and a bittersweet close to the collection. (4 stars)

Is it recommended? If you are an open-minded, mature, experienced reader, I urge you to pick up a copy. You won't regret it. If this sounds too weird for you but you're looking for dark, imaginative short stories, I wold recommend Lips Touch Three Times. It might sound like some Para-Normal Romance garbage, but it's actually a very well-written and imaginative collection with some of the most beautiful prose in the Young Adult genre. It's also much easier to read, though IMO not as deep as Red Spikes.
Profile Image for Melissa Chung.
904 reviews326 followers
July 2, 2017
10 short interesting stories. I liked 3 more than the others and would have liked them to be a bit longer.

The first short story 'Baby jane' was my favorite. It is about a boy who found a few figurines in the forest. His mother is a midwife. The boy found those figurines and stuck them in his pocket then under his pillow that night before he went to sleep. By midnight those figurines came to life. One of the figurines was a warrior Queen about to give birth. The boy's family was in a magical sleep and the boy had to be the "midwife" for the Queen. When the princess was born, the Queen gave the baby to the boy. Told him he must watch over her until she came for her. Then the Queen and other companions turned back into figurines. Such a weird fantastical story that I would have loved to continue reading.

The second story that I really liked is called 'Under Hell, Over Heaven' this story is about 4 people in Limbo. They are to chaperone the dead either to Heaven or Hell. The main character was an unbaptized baby. One of her group says that you get brownie points for working hard. With that you may enter Heaven. It was an interesting story. Those that are the "workers" live in a fog of grey. They do not have feelings (emotional or physical) while in Limbo, but when they come close to the gates of Heaven and Hell their senses reawaken for a short period of time. This makes them feel a hunger for something they can not have.

The last story that I really liked was about an indigenous people. They had lived hundreds of years on the beliefs of many gods. They thrived with a family unit and their gods. Then the white man came and brought their one true God to the villages. The missionaries took the men from the villages to teach them their ways. The right ways to live. The women and girls were left behind. It is a sad story. This happens everywhere. People come into a unknown area and try to claim the people there for themselves. Try to change them. With this change, brings unknown diseases to the tribes. Brings the loss of culture, language and the old gods. Very sad indeed.

Over all I thought this collection of short stories was pretty good. Some of them were really weird, like, 'Monkey's Pasternoster' about animals and their mating season and 'Mouse Maker' where a man lives near a witch and tries to duplicate a potion/curse, but does it wrong.

It was a nice dip into this authors writing and can't wait to try out her other books.
493 reviews16 followers
August 31, 2019
Dark and beautiful collection of stories. I particularly like "Baby Jane," "A Good Heart", "Winkie," and "Daughter of the Clay", but the collection centers around this sense of pinpricks--each piece throws itself headlong into trouble. The stories are about fear and about desire and about desperation and each once picks out a new pathway through that.

Lanagan's plotting is effective and her prose is lovely. I got lost in a couple stories, but the best ones were absolutely riviting in their strangeness. The stories flirt more with horror than I usually like ("Monkey's Paternoster" is particularly unsettling), but in Lanagan's hands, the fear is manageable without being defanged.
Profile Image for Karissa.
3,967 reviews196 followers
November 15, 2015
Previous to this book I’ve read The Brides of Rollrock Island (which I absolutely adored), Yellowcake (which was okay) and Tender Morsels (which was also okay). I got this book when I was in a big Lanagan reading phase a couple years ago. It was okay; the stories are all interesting but none of them really grabbed me and the majority of them are just plain odd.

I listed the stories below along with brief descriptions and thoughts on them. I think my favorites were Baby Jane, Hero Vale, Under Hell, Over Heaven, and Daughter of Clay. Lanagan likes to include sex and /or sexuality in her stories in way that is usual presented as uncomfortable and disturbing. Just a warning; I am always surprised these are considered YA.

Overall I would recommend the Yellowcake collection of stories over this one. I would strongly recommend Brides of Rollrock Island over all of Lanagan’s other books; I think that was by far her best book.

Baby Jane
About a strange woman from another reality that gives birth to a baby girl. I really enjoyed this story and how the boundaries of two worlds touch each other briefly.

Monkey’s Paternoster
A tribe of captive monkeys that gets a new lead male. This was my least favorite of the bunch. I get what Lanagan is trying to do here, but I don’t enjoy reading about violent sexual assault.

A Good Heart
This was about a man whose childhood sweetheart is marrying a Lord and he finds out one of her deep dark secrets. This was an okay story, I was kind of neutral about it.

About a young girl who is kidnapped by a giant. This story had some excellent imagery in it and I enjoyed the eeriness of it.

A Feather in the Breast of God
About a sort of guardian budgie who comes back from the dead to help his family. This was an okay story, again I was pretty neutral about it.

Hero Vale
A young man goes to Hero Vale to see the sights and ends up scarred and changed. I really enjoyed this. I love the other world our world touches in this story and how it changes the people who see it.

Under Hell, Over Heaven
About a group of people stuck in between that escort people between heaven and hell. This had a very urban fantasy feel to it. I thought it was okay but nothing all that original.

Mouse Maker
About an old healer woman who is lynched by her neighbors and has a strange ability to commune with mice. This was another story I could leave or take. Just okay.

Forever Upward
A young girl’s mother takes her into a minor Goddess to beg safety for her sons. I loved the scenes with the Goddess and thought the island setting was interesting. Overall I enjoyed it.

Daughter of the Clay
A young woman who has always been different finds out she was swapped out at birth by faeries. I really liked this story. It was a slightly different take on the whole “swapped out by faeries at birth” theme.
Profile Image for Jill.
353 reviews342 followers
July 25, 2014
I don't normally read short fiction, but my love for Margo Lanagan's The Brides of Rollrock Island and my desire for something different encouraged me to pick up Red Spikes, a collection of ten short stories. Unfortunately, I couldn't help but feel cheated as I read the stories because as soon as I'd connect with the character, develop a guess as to where the plot was going, or lose myself in Lanagan's lurid and ambient settings, the story would end.

Lanagan's writing is beautiful and her ideas are so endlessly creative, so all I wanted while reading these stories was to see them fully realized as feature-length works. Though short stories are, by definition, short, these stories seemed exceptionally so. They are better defined as sparse, atmospheric vignettes, captivating but woefully incomplete. I was particularly disappointed with "Under Hell, Over Heaven," my favorite of the collection, because it would have been an incredible novel. The idea is that a troop of kids living in Purgatory deliver souls to Heaven and Hell, hoping one day that their work will result in a promotion from Purgatory to heaven. The three realms of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory are exquisitely imagined and described, but the story was too short to develop any long-term intrigue. Its premature ending left me unsatisfied.

Other highlights of the collection (again, almost all of these would be wonderful scenes/starting points for novels):
-"Baby Jane," a portal story featuring childbirth in between fantasy realms.
-"A Good Heart," a medievalesque setting with focus on love and women's choices and positions in such a society.
-"Winkie," a terrifying Boogeyman type story.
-"Forever Upward," a society where a colonizing force has taken away all the men and a little girl and the remaining women must appeal to their disappeared gods for help.

Mostly, this collection made me hope that Lanagan is writing more novels. I suppose I can take solace in the fact that I have not yet read her award-winning novel Tender Morsels.
Profile Image for Rosa.
1,831 reviews14 followers
January 12, 2011
I really really wanted to like these short stories but I just couldn't get into it. I love Margo Lanagan's writing, I think it's absolutely beautiful, and the language in these stories is absolutely gorgeous. One of my favorite things about Margo Lanagan's writing has always been her ability to really set a mood in a story, and these stories evoke many different moods from the down right disturbing to a sense of satisfaction. Unfortunately all of the stories felt unfinished to me. They felt more like excerpts from larger tales that I (mostly) wanted to hear the rest of. This left me feeling frustrated and unsatisfied as a reader.

I read an arc that I got from work and at the end of the arc there was a two page note from the author dealing with where the inspiration for each story. I hope that made it into the final copy because I thought that was really interesting. The stories I liked the best were Baby Jane; A Feather in the Breast of God; Under Hell, Over Heaven; Forever Upward, and Daughter of the Clay. Unfortunately, these all left me feeling the most frustrated as well. It just felt like I was missing out on getting to know characters, endings and even beginnings.
Profile Image for Anne Hamilton.
Author 46 books149 followers
December 7, 2012
The best collection so far in my opinion. Black Juice had some dazzlingly good stories, marred by some racist overtones in the most compelling story inside its covers. White Time was almost brilliant but Red Spikes doesn't seem to put a foot wrong.

Unusual, strange, otherworldly.

It's hard to choose favourites but the opening story Baby Jane as well as Hero Vale and Daughter of the Clay probably get the nod.

Apart from saying the stories are uniformly excellent, it is too hard to say anything much about individual stories since any description is likely to be misleading (as I found the cover blurb to be) or else gives the plot away entirely.
Profile Image for  Crystal.
243 reviews13 followers
August 14, 2008
Interesting fluidity. For most of the book I was left with this weird sensation, and it wasn't until the fourth or fifth story that I could pinpoint what it was: most of the stories felt like they had been lifted away from longer novels. But instead of it being an unpleasant realization, it rather enhanced the stories for me, as though they were shimmering up from a lakebed, only to fall away again as the current took them. I would be interesting to see some of these stories expanded, but as they are I particularly enjoyed "Hero Vale," "Under Hell, Over Heaven," "A Good Heart," and "Forever Upward."
Profile Image for bjneary.
2,422 reviews85 followers
April 27, 2008
If you like fantastic, unreal, horrifying stories, you will certainly enjoy the ten short stories by Lanagan that do not disappoint. Themes of birth, death, and love are interspersed throughout with images of violence, gentleness and intensity. Wade in carefully and read each story separately, you will be rewarded with mystery and truth in
life and otherworlds. Supernatural Fiction
Profile Image for Kathryn.
514 reviews22 followers
January 3, 2020
This book. It's not what I expected, and I find it hard to put a rating on it. Some stories I loved; one story I hated (seriously, Monkey's Paternoster-I wish I had never read it).

Baby Jane was a charming opening to the collection. A boy finds his home invaded by a bear, a pregnant queen, and a little man, all from another world. The story was sweet and whimsical an I adored it.

Baby Jane was unfortunately followed by the unpleasant Monkey's Paternoster. I wish I could unread it. It was unpleasant and nearly caused me to give up on the whole book.

A Good Heart was a short, sweet, melancholy tale that encouraged me to give the overall collection another chance.

Winkie, about a young girl and a giant, was strange and creepy, and my only real complaint is that it could have gone on longer.

A Feather in the Breast of God features a pet bird that comes back from death to save the daughter of the family that kept him. It's beautifully sweet (and not nearly as saccharine as it sounds). I teared up a little.

Hero Vale was weird and creepy and hard to describe. Another story that I could have lived in a little bit longer.

Under Hell, Over Heaven features workers in the middle ground between hell and heaven, escorting a soul to hell. It's mean spirited and gruesome and oddly entrancing. I was left melancholy and slightly disturbed by this forbidding idea of the afterlife.

Mouse Maker started out promising but kind of fizzled by the end.

I was originally not terribly impressed with Forever Upward, but it's hopeful ending left me smiling. Kind of the opposite of how I felt about Mouse Maker.

Finally, Daughter of Clay, tells of a changeling going to fairy land to trade places with the girl whose life she's living. It's a bittersweet appropriate end to the collection.

Ultimately, Red Spikes reminded me of a collection of fairy tales, more Grimm than Disney. Charming and whimsical yet also melancholy and disturbing. It's a hard book to rate. It's like a box of dark chocolate, rich and filling but not to everyone's taste.

Except for Monkey's Paternoster. Seriously, it's the worst.
175 reviews
October 12, 2021
Really great stories. It’s hard to dive into them quickly as they start in the middle with no context but great once you work out where you are. I could only do one per day because they were so unrelated to each other so such a short book took a long time to read.
Profile Image for Tessa.
448 reviews48 followers
February 8, 2014
It was very hard to rate this book because there were a few stories I liked from it and others that just left me blink in confusion. There is a certain magic this author can create in her story, but the dark site of them just turns out to be creepy and confusing. Except for Hero Vale, that one had a very interesting view on the creepy factor.

Here are a few toughs for each story:

1.Baby Jane - just plain weird. After reading this I was very close to giving up on this book. It felt like I was seeing the birth of "Queen Red" from Alice in Wonderland.

2.Monkey's Paternoster - took me some time to realize the characters were not humans, but that's pretty much the only thing I understood from this story.

3.A good heart - this one was the first story I enjoyed from this collection and the one who made me decide to go on with this book. It was sorrowful and creepy and unexpected.

4.Winkie - another weird one. You're left to think this is about the bond a mother and her child share, but it's more about how an abandoned child manages to survive a monster he needs to face because of his mother and still decide to go back to her.

5.A feather in the breast of God - I liked this one a lot. Why should animals be considered soulless? If a pet loves you unconditionally, doesn't it mean he has a soul capable to feel such love?

6.Hero Vale - and my favorite from the bunch. A boarding school for boys is placed near a magical vale that is rumored to be a passing place for giant heroes that use it only to pass from one dimension to another. Is the the vale's only purpose? There are whispers among the boys that those who go in the vale return much braver, maybe even brave enough to face the school's bully...
I loved the magical realism in this short story. Maybe in order to do something important in our life we do need a bit of magic.

7.Under Hell, Over Heaven - a good read about the limbo in witch all those in between fall. The ones who can't enter either haven or hell, bound to forever struggle to find their purpose while trying to avoid getting in hell and hoping to be accepted in heaven.

8.Mouse Maker - creepy and entertaining. Also, from another perspective, a very sad story about a woman who's not accepted in a community because of her beliefs.

9.Forever Upward - this was also a nice and sad story. I wished to have found more about what Currija managed to do with her new found power in the end. But, if you look back in history you will probably see that the "one true god" won in the end. Well... his swords did...

10.Daughter of the clay - not a particular favorite of mine. It reminded me of the folk changeling story.

All in all, an interesting read. A good book for research and a good piece of literature, but hard to read at times.
Profile Image for Shradha.
115 reviews6 followers
August 24, 2013
"Red Spikes" is an anthology which contains ten short stories. Each examines a facet of humankind and fantasy alike, using different settings, situations, and characters.

This book was the first piece of Margo Lanagan's work I have seen. And I must admit I was blown away. Her style of writing is amazing, with dark and somber undertones present in each story that pulls the reader in and doesn't let them go until the end. The tales are all original and fresh ideas, yet all are complex and hold endless depths of meaning.

There was only one fault I could see with this book, and it was that some stories were a bit too scattered to keep the sensation of mystery and complexity that the author was trying to convey to the reader. As a result, some of the works were difficult to understand what exactly was going on and how it was relevant to the story.

Lanagan's writing was a treat to read. I heartily enjoyed each and every one of her stories, and I look forward to reading many more. If any teen wants to read something a bit more sophisticated to the romantic comedy, one should definitely check out this anthology.

Profile Image for Millenia.
188 reviews22 followers
December 9, 2013

It's almost impossible to describe what these stories did to me. I've tried writing this review four or five times, and... wow. Here goes nothing (and apologies for any incoherences):

1. When you begin reading, it's like walking down a dark hallway. You stumble around a bit, but you see this light at the end of the hallway, and you squint and keep on going, trying to reach it.

2. As you come closer, you begin to see something more - something dancing in the light. Intrigued, you keep on walking.

3. And then you step into the light, and see what is really there - it's sometimes beautiful, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes totally mind-blowing (I think all of us have had that moment of feeling something beyond the bounds of our understanding, and of expanding our minds to grasp it), and always deeply emotional.

In Hemingwayian terms: read it.
Profile Image for Emily.
699 reviews10 followers
December 16, 2009
"Oh, you caint see straight in this place," said Razor. "And when you do see summink, afterwards you caint quite remember. You caint quite believe, you know? It will not stay proper in your head."

Okay, I have only read six of the ten stories in this book so far, but I can tell I am going to have to give it five stars already. Gorgeous amazing disturbing lovely tales; every one of them fills my head with exclamation points.

Also the best bird story in the world EVER EVER with the following description of a pet bird that fills me with glee: Smoko sat in a general gentle tremble of nerves, weighing very little. <3!
Profile Image for Rayne.
862 reviews288 followers
September 28, 2012
This is definitely not for everyone. The pacing is slow, the stories convoluted and strange and the writing obscure at times but it is just so, so beautiful. Dammit, Lanagan can write. Anyone that can write from the perspective of a freaking monkey or a pet bird and still make it gorgeous and intriguing is definitely a truly fantastic author. Most readers will have the problem of feeling bored with the stories, but they are all gorgeously-written and wonderfully-crafted and have such significance, such an impact with each ending. I'm not sure I would recommend it, for this is one book that is certainly not for everyone, but I really liked it.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
Author 16 books18 followers
October 1, 2008
Margo Lanagan has the most amazing use of language, whether her story is a horrifying tale of Wee Willie Winkie, an unforgettable an angelic budgie, or following along with souls in limbo. These are tales to be enjoyed slowly.
Profile Image for Thoraiya.
Author 62 books111 followers
August 30, 2012
Getting a bit slack with writing proper reviews because I'm writing...stories! But I will pause to note that my favourites from this collection are Monkey's Paternoster, Winkie, Hero Vale, Mouse Maker and Forever Upward.

Yes, that is half the book :)
Profile Image for Jenifer.
1,055 reviews29 followers
December 16, 2014
Oh my gosh. These 10 short pieces of fiction are so greatly, awesomely imaginative. Perfect. More. More.
Profile Image for Natalie.
446 reviews10 followers
June 6, 2008
First book of the new year! I love her short stories- creepy and thought-provoking.
Profile Image for Luthien.
260 reviews13 followers
February 5, 2017
Very strange and difficult to rate. I almost gave up on this collection in the middle and only skimmed most of the rest. The first and especially the last stories were very good, but most of the stories in between were hit-or-miss and very, very strange. Most seemed like they were unfinished, as though they'd come from longer stories or even novels; I know some reader liked that about them, but I found it pretty jarring.
Profile Image for Michael.
410 reviews12 followers
July 15, 2018
I loved it.
It's hard to write a review for a Margo Lanagan book because I'm always tempted to oversell it.
That's because it deserves it, and I only write honest reviews.
Just read the book okay, and buy one those shirts that the boy sells down at the market in Hobart that says "Margo Lanagan is God."
Profile Image for Dana Cordelia.
366 reviews19 followers
December 30, 2018
Stunning and delicious, this collection leaves me with a bone-deep satisfaction I desperately needed. Absolutely marvelous. The stuff of the most haunting nightmares, and yet so enchantingly beautiful as to move one to tears. There are not strong enough words to describe the impact of Ms. Lanagan’s imagination and story-spinning ability.
1 review
September 5, 2019
I really wanted to like this book. Read the first story 3 times before the picture came through and even then I was left with more questions than answers.

I liked maybe two of the stories, but overall I just felt like something was missing that I couldn’t quite place my finger on. Perhaps it was just me.
Profile Image for Heidi.
536 reviews5 followers
March 31, 2023
Ugh, this was a slog for me. I'm just not cut out for short-stories when I was expecting one story in the book. Some of the stories were exceptional and stuck with me but all of the stories held a bit of otherworldliness about them. Intriguing, but not my cup of tea.
Profile Image for Beka.
399 reviews4 followers
September 29, 2017
I just couldn’t seem to get into this book. I liked 2 of the stories and found the others hard to follow or understand what was going on.
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