This is my first exposure to Sandra Odell. I come away with mixed emotions. On one hand, she has a way with prose and a knack for capturing moods. On the other hand, she doesn’t do as much with it as I’d have hoped.
The stories are a mix of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Since Odell frequently points out that she rarely writes science fiction and rarely writes fantasy, I have to conclude that she sees the bulk of the stories as horror or something else, but they mostly struck me as fantasy.
Most of these pieces are more vignettes than stories – little slices without a well-defined arc. As mood pieces, they tend toward the gloomy and self-destructive. They’re often message-oriented, and unfortunately the messages tend to be heavy handed. The author’s notes after each piece make clear that they’re also aggressively autobiographical, which left me unsure what to make of them. While I admired Odell’s skill, by the halfway point, I felt more like I was leafing through a journal than reading a collection of stories.
By the midway point, I’d become reluctant to pick up the book again, and it was a struggle to finish. I have no trouble with dark stories, but I found that a long chain of dark message-heavy mood pieces without much story was too much for me. While Odell clearly has a talent for prose, I was glad to reach the end of this book. I could see enjoying a story or two by Odell, but I won’t be reading another such collection any time soon.