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Parallel Hells

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As characters founder in a chop of financial troubles, their oddities and obsessions rise to the surface. The first was that this book is an exploration of identity, especially maybe queer identity (queer horror is a whole vibe), told about people who are discovering things about themselves that they might not necessarily like, or ways in which they don't conform to molds that they think they should conform to. Leon Craig has set up her writing space at the place where gothic horror meets contemporary fiction, where magic meets despair, and where all the cool queer kids hang out to show off their tattoos before they get swallowed by the night. I bought this debut of thirteen short stories after hearing the author speak at the Jewish Book Festival and I’m so glad I did.

Not at his own reflection but at the mirror,” while the elderly widow at the beginning of the novel stares at her own reflection, fails to see and “just listens”. The collection is aptly named, as these threads run through all of the thirteen stories which take the reader from a coastal holiday resort in Mexico, to the mythical and medieval Scandinavia, abandoned mansions, and contemporary London. I loved some of the stories in this collection, I liked others, and I’m pretty sure I’m not smart enough to understand a few. I loved the two stories that really experimented with form: “raw pork and opium,” which features two narratives side-by-side across several pages; and “No Dominion,” which is told in an elliptical form. I think my main frustration came from the fact that lots of the stories felt more like concepts or first chapters than fully rounded out and finished short stories.The horror I like best isn’t necessarily gory or in your face but rather a subtle creeping sense of dread, or something being off. In using it to overcome her academic rival, the character tells us “There was nothing so pure as being in things but not of them. But in the chapter titled “The Flat ,” we are thrust into the primary voyeuristic perspective, as though we are watching David, who has just moved into a new apartment, through a hole in the wall. By turns dark, sharp, witty and tender, I'm a huge fan of Leon Craig's writing, and the way she reveals the complex dance of beauty and brutality in our innermost, most vulnerable selves.

The length of each column matches the other almost perfectly, bridging a formidable dichotomy between fear and pleasure. In the thirteen darkly audacious stories of Parallel Hells we meet a golem, made of clay, learning that its powers far exceed its Creator’s expectations; a ruined mansion which grants the secret wishes of a group of revellers and a notorious murderer who discovers her Viking husband is not what he seems. Part-way through the narrative of this story, the page splits and we are presented with two characters’ perspectives running parallel down the page. Macabre, Gothic, sensuous (textures are everywhere), sharp (neither too rich nor too sparse) extraordinarily, varied from Icelandic sagas to London sex dungeons (OK, maybe not that varied!A lot of stories here as well as being surreal fantasy horror pieces involve resolutions of this kind of inner conflict by the protagonist. But yeah- Leon's writing has the perfect sense to describe and flesh out the characters in just a few paragraphs. loved that it was very gay but didn’t care for a lot of the stories especially the ones towards the end.

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