Glancing at my Goodreads stats, I began reading Caution well over a year ago. It was going to be one of those quick personal reads you fit in before the review copy starts padding the walls of your
I may have let it languish longer were it not for the death of my ereader, which prompted the purchase of another ($65 Kobo Touch at Brisbane Airport). I had bought Caution through Kobo and it downloaded as part of the setup process again. The intervening year of not reading hadn’t dulled my memory but I embarked on reading the first 3 stories again.
It struck me on a second reading that this collection does really showcase McDermott’s versatility. All the stories are a mix of dark/weird/horror/fantasy but McDermott gives us something fresh in each of the 4 tales.
Kij Johnson (whose work I also have in the personal reading pile) introduces the collection, outlining the reasons why I continue to enjoy Kirstyn’s work i.e. that Kirstyn isn’t afraid to drag the reader toward big messy uncomfortable themes and bind them together with good story.
What Amanda Wants kicks off the set and presents initially as a fairly straight psychological thriller before edging its way into the weird. Without giving too much away, I enjoyed being manipulated in this story, the build up of dread and the twist.
Horn was a very interesting bit of fun, a thick vein of cultural commentary wrapped up in a good horror story. If you like fluffy tales about unicorns…well ( why would you be reading McDermott) skip this one.
Caution: Contains Small Parts was another wonderful piece of manipulation, playing with genre expectations around possessed childhood toys. I think this would work well as a short film.
The final novella is The Home for Broken Dolls where Kirstyn manages to blend genre tropes, criticism and adult dolls in the one story that should be given so much more critical analysis than this short recommendation will provide. Out of all the stories this one impressed me the most. Horn, What Amanda Wants and Caution are great stories, entertaining stories. The Home for Broken Dolls though managed to really provoke some introspection on top of having the qualities of the stories previously mentioned.
This collection continues Twelfth Planet Press’ wonderful series of female talent. Caution and indeed the entire series should receive wider attention than the usual genre haunts. I encourage readers especially those not fans or readers of genre to try Kirstyn’s collection, to sample what serious topics and themes can be packaged in horror and dark fantasy short story.
So a thumbs up from me.
This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015. Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.