Review – ‘Portable Curiosities’ by Julie Koh

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It’s the end of the year and I’m running on empty, but I enjoyed Julie Koh’s collection of short stories, ‘Portable Curiosities’, released this year through UQP, so here’s a real short review because a) UQP is an awesome publisher and deserves all the coverage it can get, b) the book was good and c) look at the cover. Look at the COVER! Amazing .

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‘Trigger Warning’ by Neil Gaiman: the literary version of a curiosity cabinet

gaiman-TriggerNeil Gaiman’s latest collection of short fiction is like a lucky dip containing excitingly obscure prizes: you literally have no idea what’s coming next, both from one tale to the next and within individual stories. Trigger Warning collates twenty four of Gaiman’s stories that have been published in various magazines and anthologies over the past twelve years and is a complete mixed bag in terms of genre and form, with some stories two pages long and some thirty; some hinting at sci-fi and others at spec-fic or folklore; and some written in metered rhyme, others in free verse, most in prose.

What unifies the stories is they way they seem to celebrate creativity – the sheer joy they take in showcasing just how far the power of imagination may take us. A story that seems to be about a stuffed cat in a pub in the English countryside turns into a crazy ghost-story/murder-mystery involving Pagan rites and depression. One about a wandering tourist turns into a pseudo-history of a long-lost and possibly magical rose-hedge maze lit only by the moon. The book also contains the story ‘Nothing O’Clock’ which Gaiman wrote for an anthology of stories about Doctor Who, and it’s brilliant – I put off reading it for ages as I was sure I’d be disappointed, but he captured the dialogue and vibe of the Doctor Who universe perfectly.

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