My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was a fan of Bracken MacLeod's recent novel, Stranded, so my interest was piqued considerably when his short story collection 13 Views of the Suicide Woods was announced.
At times, 13 Views feels a bit unbalanced due to MacLeod's growth and maturation as an author. The stories, many of them previously published and a few that are seeing print for the first time here, go back to 2011. The title story was first published by Shock Totem in 2014, and sets a high water mark for the stories that follow. Not all of these stories reach the heights of success MacLeod demonstrates in this opening volley, but there are certainly some strong works of dark fiction, and even a few that are markedly superior in my estimation.
I'm not going to dwell on the stories that I did not enjoy. Instead, I'll point out some of my favorites here:
The Texas Chainsaw Breakfast Club or I Don't Like Mondays wears its inspiration right on its sleeve. A group of students with disparate backgrounds (a la The Breakfast Club's band of misfits) have been kidnapped by a killer, one of them run through a meat hook and hanging from the basement rafters, and it's up to the Final Girl to save them. It's a short story with a good dose of style and makes for an effective mash-up between two iconic movies that pretty well defined a generation of cinephiles.
Some Other Time involves a woman discovering her boyfriend cheating on her on the dance floor of a club. She meets an intriguing stranger and... I won't say anything further, because, as with Blood of the Vine so much of this story rides on the excellent reveal.
Other stories, like In The Bones, take more of a dark fiction/crime approach, while Sky Burial plays with some Western revenge tropes. Both are wonderfully drawn stories, and like the above-named shorts, showcase MacLeod's talent for creating strong characters in a short amount of time. The best examples of these talents, though, comes in the collection's final story, Reminisce, about a homeless veteran with a big heart, who attempts to help a family who lost their child. There's a twist of course, and MacLeod proves over the course of these seventeen short stories that he's more than adept at completely upending a story with some unique, batshit crazy revelations.
On balance, 13 Views of the Suicide Woods is a pretty strong collection. There are a few weak links here and there (as is the case with virtually any collection or anthology), but the good stories herein are really, really good, and more than make it worth the price of admission.
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher, ChiZine Press.]
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