I really love short story collections: the satisfaction of reading a tale in a short amount of time, the completeness of a world in a few pages, the feeling of "oh I wish this was a novel" when I finish a great story. When they are fantasy stories, it's even more exciting because anything could happen next. That's the way I felt while reading Margo Lanagan's excellent Black Juice.
There were many times when I had no idea what was happening, and I mean that in the most complimentary way. These ten stories merit many re-reads and discussions. After reading the stories, I would hop on the internet to see if I could find out more...I needed to know what was happening in these worlds. This is subtle fantasy; it could be in the future or in an alternate world. Lanagan never spells things out for the reader, she just slides in details that make the reader pause. For example, in "Perpetual Light", the family cat catches wild animals as most pets do, "But sometimes he lost his head and ate half, and brought us the rest, the light gone out of their eyes and the mechs and biosprings trailing." There is no more explanation given, even though the reader is desperate to know what this means.
As I mentioned in my review of Tender Morsels, Lanagan is a talented writer whose choice of words leave the reader aching. In the eerie "Yowlinin", the protagonist says, "Who did I think I was, all these months, following and watching him? This must be what they call lovesickness. But the love has fallen from my eyes now and left only the sickness." Lanagan takes the ordinary and shows it in a way that challenges, unsettles, and enchants her audience.
Younger readers could be frustrated by the lack of resolution to the stories, but I loved it. I look forward to one day further exploring these stories with my students, pondering how Lanagan can do so much in so few pages.