From the first couple of paragraphs of "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss," I knew this collection of short stories by Kij Johnson was going to be something special. Johnson's stories explore the lives of animals, and their relationship with humans, but also explore realms of science fiction -- alternate earths, or alien lifeforms. While every story is enjoyable, the standouts for me revolve around the inner lives of every day animals. The monkeys in the aforementioned tale are delightful and mysterious. The protagonist of "The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles" is as heroic as any literary protagonist as she makes her way from Japan's capitol city to The North. And the mysteries of the swarm in the title story includes a benevolent queen whose kindness will break your heart.
There are some dark stories as well, including the horrific "Spar", the devastating yet hopeful "The Horse Raiders," and a shockingly brutal take on the entire "My Little Pony" phenomenon as told in "Ponies." Johnson's longer tales, including the title story, the afore-mentioned "The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles," and the powerful science fiction story, "The Man Who Bridged the Mist," could easily be spun into full novels. I look forward to reading her novel, <i>The Fox Woman</i>, which surely emerged from her story included here, "Fox Magic." Kij Johnson plays with language as deftly as she plays with ideas and preconceived notions. This is a magical collection for anyone who enjoys a little imagination in their stories.
Some of the most original, nervy writing I've ever encountered. Worth checking out!
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