I've mentioned before how much I enjoy what's coming out of the Australian horror writing community and this new collection of shorts from Andrew J. McKiernan just adds to that impression.
Last Year, When We Were Young cover's his young career from his first published short in July of 2007 though November of 2012. Sixteen stories, with only one thing in common, they are all exceptional.
It all starts with a delightful fantasy with beautiful prose, "The Memory of Water," which opens with the line, "'The ocean, it remembers us,' David said, the heel of his foot dredging shallow trenches in the sand."
There's the powerful didactic story "White Lines, White Crosses," A tale of speed and peer pressure told in a haunting manner.
I loved "Calliope: A Steam Romance." A bit of steampunk fantasy, beautifully told. It's at this point in the collection that I'm getting the feeling I'm reading something special as McKiernan does with words what a great painter does with his brushstrokes.
There is a distinct diversity in the stories found in this collection, as evidenced in "Love Death," an intriguing story of a newlywed who turns to a necromancer to bring back his bride after a wedding day accident and the consequence that follows.
I keep thinking that I won't comment on every story, but each one is even better than the last. One of my favorites is, "The Message," in which Marion leaves her abusive husband and takes a job answering a very special phone and taking messages. Sounds simple, right? I really enjoyed where this one went.
At the end of the book, the author tells where the inspiration came from for select stories. "Back in 2006, my second son (who would have been about 7 years of age at the time) came home from school with a birthday card he'd made for me from clip-art. It read; All the clowns in Clowntown, wish you barrels of fun on your birthday! There was a cartoony picture of a clown on front , and the instant I read it I knew there was a story hidden inside." The resulting story was "All the Clowns In Clowntown." There's even a second visit to Clowntown later in the collection.
Autosarcophagy (look it up) is a big part of "The Final Degustation of Doctor Ernest Blenheim. That's as good a place as any to end this review.
Last Year, When We Were Young is among my favorite reads for 2014. Currently available in both paperback and for the Kindle through Amazon.com from Satalyte Publishing. Plus, if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it for FREE.
This one gets my highest recommendation, I can all but guarantee you won't be disappointed.