Wednesday, 21 October 2015

This Strange Way of Dying by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Spanning a variety of genres—fantasy, science fiction, horror—and time periods, Silvia Moreno-Garcia's exceptional debut collection features short stories infused with Mexican folklore yet firmly rooted in a reality that transforms as the fantastic erodes the rational. This speculative fiction compilation, lyrical and tender, quirky and cutting, weaves the fantastic and the horrific alongside the touchingly human. Perplexing and absorbing, the stories lift the veil of reality to expose the realms of what lies beyond with creatures that shed their skin and roam the night, vampires in Mexico City that struggle with disenchantment, an apocalypse with giant penguins, legends of magic scorpions, and tales of a ceiba tree surrounded by human skulls. 
Goodreads description

The author of This Strange Way of Dying approached me for a review ages ago and I am embarrassed to say I forgot about it. I therefore apologize to Ms Moreno-Garcia and to you my readers as this is a short story collection I can recommend.  Not all the stories are magic realism, as the description above states, but several are, and I enjoyed the examples of other genres as well. But then many of the stories actually span genres and move between them. 

She takes what might be conventional genre characters - aliens (Driving with Aliens in Tijuana), historical zombies (Cemetery Man), vampires (Stories with Happy Endings),  witches (Bloodlines) and shapeshifters (Nahuales) - and gives them a new spin and a depthMost of the stories feature complex female protagonists, not necessarily the "strong heroine" stereotype, but ones that are dealing with difficult and real issues. Her central characters are often outsiders in some way, alienated from the world they find themselves in. I loved Dopplegangers,  a tale in which a daughter wishes away her embarrassing non-comformist parents and chooses their dopplegangers.  Name me a teenager that hasn't felt that desire at some time or other.

The author's website describes Moreno-Garcia as "Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination". This dual identity can be detected in the stories. Although all but one of the stories are set in Mexico and use Mexican folklore and history, the collection was published in Canada for a Canadian market by Exile Editions. As we have noted elsewhere on this blog duality is at the heart of magic realism. 

My favourite stories in the collection were This Strange Way of Dying (a love story with Death as one of the lovers), Bed of Scorpions (in which a female con-woman has a choice) and Jaguar Woman ( a story about colonialism, and the woman as the conquered wild spirit of the indigenous people). But yours are likely to be different as there are fifteen to choose from and all offer something different to the reader. 

I received this book free from the author in return for a fair review.

1 comment:

Robin Gregory said...

Looks intriguing, adventuresome and enchanting.Thank you, Zoe!