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Last Year, When We Were Young by [McKiernan, Andrew J.]
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Product Description

'Last Year, When We Were Young' bring together 16 tales that defy conventions of genre and style, every one with an edge sharper than a razor and darker than a night on Neptune.

From the darkly hilarious 'All the Clowns in Clowntown', to the heart-breaking and disturbing title story, this debut collection from multi-award nominated author and illustrator Andrew McKiernan pulls no punches.

"McKiernan is a magician. He performs magic tricks in every story, spinning us around, making us believe one thing before showing us we were wrong all along. His stories are pure magic, staying with you like an echo long after reading." -- Kaaron Warren, author of 'Slights' and 'Walking the Tree'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2319 KB
  • Print Length: 306 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Satalyte Publishing; 1 edition (28 June 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00LDTZCA0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #163,233 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I should have written this review months ago. It was sometime in June that I finished Andrew J McKiernan’s Last Year, When We Were Young and it’s close on September now, and in all that time I’ve been mulling on what I could possibly write that might do justice to this extraordinary collection of stories.

To say it is a diverse collection is both to state the obvious and to understate the breadth of ground—the genres, the ideas, the voices—that these fifteen stories cover. The tales are so varied, you might think that the only thread binding them is the restless imagination of their author. With enviable facility, McKiernan shifts between literary horror, contemporary supernatural, alternate history, steampunk, noir, and the classic, old-fashioned ghost story, without ever descending into the archness of “genre-busting”. This dissociative identity disorder is a great strength of the collection, but it also caused me no small amount of frustration; I came to the end of so many of the stories, enraptured, clamouring for more of the same, only to be dragged off in some entirely other direction. But the stories are so stylish, so effortlessly cinematic, evoking worlds that bloom outward far beyond their handful of pages, that I would soon be sucked in again, only to face the same disjunct at the next story’s end.

While I enjoyed every course of this unusual degustation, there are some clear standouts. McKiernan is an able fantasist, and his vivid otherworlds—the steampunk un-Sydney of Calliope, the Alien-like space nightmare of The Wanderer in the Darkness, and the incomparable All the Clowns in Clowntown—are all intelligent, compelling, and vividly realised genre pieces.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed these stories. It was the first time I have read this author and, hearing about the book tangentially, am really pleased that i bought it. The stories are quite varied in terms of locale, time and style but many of them have a theme of our world coming in contact with something horrific. Having said that, I wouldn't want you to write these stories off as just horror. They show a sensitivity to the human condition, and many of them are very inventive. Only one or two seemed a little too long, and one (for me) missed its mark; the others were nice and tight and unfolded well. I like it when a story gives you a hint of where it is going, leaving the reader to watch as realisation dawns on the characters.

Give this one a go - well worth it.
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This book stands out amongst the many I have read. A collection of short stories that stay with you long after you have read the last page. A voice that stands out in the crowd, Andrew McKiernan cleverly weaves tales that will captivate you. There is an abundance of variety in this collection of short stories; tales that will make you laugh, cry or shudder in horror. Worthy of the awards it has won, Last year, when we were young, is a masterpiece. Watch this author, as this is sure to be only one of many delights he has to offer. Buy this book... You won't be disappointed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars 11 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Stellar Collection 24 June 2014
By Greg Chapman - Published on Amazon.com
Andrew J. McKiernan’s collection, Last Year When We Were Young, is proof yet again of the incredible writing talent that can be found in Australia and further still, proof that horror can have a meaningful voice that goes well beyond blood and gore.

Whether it is a story about a secretary taking phone messages from the dead, a group of clowns trying to avoid forced conscription in a travelling circus, or astronauts encountering cosmic monsters in the depths of space, the impossible in McKiernan’s stories never fails to engage because the stories always orbit characters that are quantifiably human.

McKiernan’s deft hand with prose is also addictive, with each turn of phrase sweeping the reader away from reality. Although many of his supernatural tales exude mysterious atmosphere, demonic forces or faith, I think the stories where the uncanny takes a back seat are where he really shines. Here the horror is less inexplicable, but no less haunting. The tales, White Lines, White Crosses, The Memory of Water, Calliope: A Steam Romance, and the title story being prime examples.

Overall, the collection is engrossing, with every story leaving the reader with sensations of loss, hope, melancholy, repulsion and joy. It’s not often that a writer can convey such a broad section of emotions, but this is what makes collections so worthwhile – and enjoyable.

I recall reading one of Andrew’s Facebook posts some time ago about how he was finding it a real challenge to select the stories for Last Year, When We Were Young, but I can safely say that he and Satalyte have put together a wonderful treasury of fiction that is well worth any reader’s time, horror fan or no.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful Storyteller, Beautiful Collection 5 August 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Andrew J. McKiernan’s short story collection, LAST YEAR, WHEN WE WERE YOUNG, is a work of wonder. Each story is sublime and fresh. Some are macabre or even terrifying, others humorous and witty, all masterfully written, and all with an unexpected curve or spiral. I ate the stories in this book like pieces of imported Belgian chocolate. If I was good, really good, and had completed all my work for the day, I’d treat myself to a story out of McKiernan’s book. I did not start from the beginning working my way to the last page. I closed my eyes and randomly picked one tale at a time, savoring each one. The last I read was, “Love Death,” a tragic love story that days after reading still haunts my waking and sleeping dreams. Do yourself a favor, and buy your own copy of LAST YEAR, WHEN WE WERE YOUNG. You’ll want to keep this book in your library to re-read a number of times
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Dark Fiction Collections I've Ever Read! 14 May 2016
By Matthew Summers - Published on Amazon.com
I have read some amazing collections this year.

Works by Laird Barron, Hank Schwaeble, and Clive Barker... to name just a few.

So when I say that McKiernan's collection Last Year, When We Were Young ranks alongside those previous books I don't say it lightly. Last Year, When We Were Young was one of my favourite reads of the year so far, and its stories are still haunting me weeks after I finished it.

Collecting all of McKiernan's previous short work, Last Year, When We Were Young is one of the most impressive collections I have ever read.

Period.

From the opening story (The Memory of Water) through to the last (Last Year, When We Were Young) McKiernan draws you into a series of tales that not only deal with the absurd and the horrific, but also the notions of deep loss and grief. And it works. It works so well in fact that it's still haunting me weeks later.

So what did I love about this collection? Where do I even start?

One of the things that floored me reading through this collection was McKiernan's width and breadth as a writer. He is never limited or bound by convention in this book, and he openly explores paths that I would never have considered possible with his story telling. Take, for example, his tale "All the Clowns in Clowntown". Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would read a story about the last surviving resistance members of a clown counter revolution. And never did I imagine that such a story would work. But damn, it does. McKiernan also embraces old school horror, weird survivalism, the grotesque, and tragedy throughout this book, and seamlessly shifts from locations such as urban cities right through to the hot and dusty desert. And his use of prose is, to put it bluntly, magical.

McKiernan has a vivid and haunting way with words that is very reminiscent of writers such as King (in his early days) and McCarthy. He never overplays his hand, but as you read you are slowly drawn into his dark visions so deeply that they resonates with you for a long time afterwards. The title story (Last Year, When We Were Young) highlights this by starting out as a seemingly innocent tale about teenagers and moving quickly to a world dying due to a mysterious virus that ages their bodies rapidly.

McKiernan's characterisation is also impressive. Every protagonist is believable, fascinating, and darkly layered. You cannot help but relate to them from the get go, and as each tale unfolds you find yourself moving through a wide range of emotions (joy, grief, anger, and hopelessness to name just a few). This is yet another reason why this book is masterful. No two stories are the same, but all are intrinsically linked to each other by an exploration of defining human emotions. Whether he is telling a gothic tale, or exploring a meteorite that is not all that it appears to be, McKiernan's words send you on a cathartic exploration of yourself and all those around you.

The pacing is seamless, and every story strong and worthy of inclusion in this collection. Last Year, When We Were Young never stumbles, and kept me enthralled (and emotionally drained) from start to finish. I cannot find any faults with it. I literally adored this collection, and find it criminal that McKiernan's work is not as well known as it should be outside of Australia.

If you want to read a riveting collection of stories that cover a wide range of topics and styles. Buy this book.

If you want to be taken on a journey that will be cathartic to your soul. Buy this book.

If you want to see a wordsmith delight, horrify, and grip you in ways you never thought possible. Buy this book.

Actually... just buy this book.

Original, entertaining, and stirring, Last Year, When We Were Young is one of the most powerful collection of stories I've ever read. McKiernan mines the dark veins of the human soul on every single page, leaving you both moved and disturbed at the same time.

Highly recommended for all readers.

5 out of 5 stars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Satisfying Australian weird horror and dark fantasy 25 September 2015
By Dave Versace - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Andrew McKiernan’s collection “Last Year, When We Were Young” is a fine example of a strong writer testing his limits by stretching in different directions. As you might expect from an Australian writer with a well-deserved reputation for compelling dark fantasy and horror, outback ghosts and urban nightmares are represented.

One of my favourite stories appears early in this volume: “White Lines, White Crosses” is a grimly familiar tragedy of teenage isolation, testosterone-fuelled recklessness and car culture, with a smear of the supernatural to amp up the stakes. “The Memory of Water” is haunted by childhood memories of beach holidays tinged with tragedy. And “The Haunting that Jack Built” is a classic yarn of strange and sinister goings-on in a country town.

But McKiernan shows his range with some unexpected variations on theme and setting: the Middle East appears in modern and mythological states, in “The Dumbshow”, “The Desert Song”, “They Don’t Know That We Know What They Know” and the excellent clash of espionage, battles handed down across generations, old gods and chess in “Daivadana”.

He does a creditable Stephen King-like grotesque in “The Final Degustation of Doctor Ernest Blenheim”. He does old-fashioned SF horror in “The Wanderer in the Darkness”. He even does a noir tragedy soaked in betrayal and cheap whiskey in “Torch Song”.

But where this collection stands out is in the weird and absurd corners. The title story is a brief piece of deranged survival horror set in the aftermath of a more than usually disturbing apocalypse. But the jewel in the crown is probably “All the Clowns in Clowntown”, which is perhaps a parable about surviving an epidemic or could be a metaphor for involuntary unionism or hostile corporatism, but in any case is probably the only story you will ever read about the last surviving resistance members of the clown counter-revolution.

“Last Year, When We Were Young” had a remarkably high hit rate for me. McKiernan’s quality as a short story writer is consistently strong across the collection. Highly recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful collection of dark speculative fiction 19 August 2014
By Frank Errington - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Review copy

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.

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