Black Juice by Margo Lanagan
|Black Juice is a short story collection which introduces the western world to Australian author Margo Lanagan. She has a startling imagination and shares it in a unique and often mesmerizing manner.|
I had first heard of Lanagan during a panel at World Fantasy Convention 2005 in Madison, WI. Kelly Link (a grand short story writer in her own right) and Graham Joyce (one of the best authors writing in speculative fiction today) were extolling its virtues to any and all who would listen.
In the intervening time, Lanagan has been nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards for her lead short story in the collection, Singing My Sister Down.
Singing My Sister Down is the story of a girl who is sentenced to death for killing her husband. The punishment is enacted by her standing in the middle of a tar pit and waiting until she sinks. The story is told from the perspective of her younger brother, as he and their entire family watch their loved one sink into oblivion. It's heartwrenching and incredibly strange. With this story, Lanagan sets the stage for a collection filled with stories with an almost dreamlike murk enshrouding them.
Sweet Pippit is told from the point of view of a group of elephants out to rescue their handler, slated for execution. Another story, Red Nose Day, allows us into the mind of snipers out to rid the world of the evil that is child molesting clowns. Each of these 10 stories are a unique slice of fabulism unlike anything you've read before. Sometimes it borders upon too strange, but the stories never become boring, and each is short enough so that you can soon go on to the next.
Though she has a number of books released in Australia, this is Margo Lanagan's first release in North America. A companion collection, White Time, has been anounced for US release in July.
Singing My Sister Down is my choice for best short story in this years Hugo Awards, and even if you do not purchase this collection, reading that particular short should be a priority.
The original first edition of this work was published in Australia by Allen and Unwin in 2004 as a trade paperback original. This first is worth 80-100 dollars. The first printing of the American hardcover published by HarperCollins/EOS was a small print run, and is worth about 50 dollars.
This book has already become a cult classic, mostly due to Singing My Sister Down. As soon as it wins the Hugo and the Nebula -- which it most likely will -- the value will probably double, especially for these rare editions.