So what really is The New Weird? In short, it’s an anthology edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer featuring a collection of authors whose works can best be described as — well — strange.
The attempt was to loosely define the genre which itself cannot be readily designed. Fiction dubbed “new weird” ranges from political fiction, weird creature stories, metaphysical journeys, twisting established cliches and so on.
Starting with an essay written by Jeff VanderMeer, you are quickly brought into what this world of fiction is all about. In a sense, the term “new weird” is used to sell books as much as it is to define a genre. It’s not quite horror, it’s not quite fantasy, it’s not quite social-political – it’s a combination of all these things and them sometimes none at all.
What this book isn’t is a manifesto of an alternative to cyberbunk or horror fiction. The VanderMeer’s, along with many of the authors who contribute to this work, scoff at the notion of being confined to a new niche. Yet, after reading the short stories here, you’ll have a clear understand that there is a new sensibility in fiction.
That sensibility has it’s roots in Cthulhu, on through the Books of Blood and into the writings of China Mieville. What might at first strike readers as being a bit too weird actually, by the end, comes across as a refreshing romp through new possibilities and new themes that weren’t quite there in the mind before.
Stand out works in this novel (which has stories included that date back to the late 70s up through today) include Watson’s Boy by Brian Evenson, which features a unique style of prose from the first-person perspective of a boy named Brey who sees the world in simplistic fashion, given that world is nothing but his parents, corridors, keys and an infestation of (possibly) imaginary rats. The Gutter Sees the Light That Never Shines by Alistair Rennie is completely different, being a humorously grotesque tale of supernatural revenge, murder and a strange outlook on men and women. You also have In The Hills, The Cities: a short tale by Clive Barker from the original Books of Blood (yes, the story with the line Trent Reznor borrowed for his 1989 single Sin – “stale incense, old sweat, and lies”), which is one of the first works of fantasy fiction to feature – quite graphically at times – two gay men as the main protagonists.
If you’re interested in unique fiction, horror fiction, supernatural fiction that doesn’t follow the conventional norms of Rowlings, Meyers or any of the more mainstream authors, this is certainly a great introduction into the world of fantastic fiction from another dimension. If you’re easily scared or disturbed, this is certainly not for you as many of the stories are graphic in nature.
4 out of 5 stars