Speculative fiction lovers should be delighted with Tracie McBride’s short story collection, Ghosts Can Bleed. The bio at the end of the book reports she won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best New Talent in 2007, and I certainly believe it. Her words come across gracefully and confident. Her writing is mature, and she knows exactly where to start and stop a plot to keep readers engaged. Tracie has a sparse writing style that uses an elegant simplicity to convey darkness as well as humor.
The anthology is a mixture of poetry and prose that initially concerned me when I agreed to review it. I have no skill or knowledge, for that matter, in the area of poetry, but her poems feel like stories set to a primal rhythm. I was able to enjoy them for the dark images they evoked.
Tracie McBride’s stories can be divided into three categories, religious and social dystopia, the collision of the every day and the never day, and dark humor. My least favorite was the dark humor. I was blown away by her dystopic fiction and loved her straight dark fantasy pieces. The humor stories were good, but she had already won me over with her more thought provoking works by the time I encountered the humor stories.
The dystopic works in the collection were like malevolent, black gems. Tracie has an incredible knack for zeroing in on the perfect characteristic to build upon. I found the first story in the collection to be very unsettling. I truly believe that our world is moving in that dark direction. And what she does with mermaids and religion is wonderful. Two others in the dystopia category are light science fiction tales that take readers back to the counter culture sci-fi of the 1960’s.
The more traditional dark fantasy stories in the collection read easily and are thick with believable characters as well as grim circumstances. The story about the mother trying to help her son with his bad dreams has a lovely ambiguous ending. Her stranger in a bar story really shows Tracie McBride can be dark with the best of ‘em. The title story of the anthology would have made an excellent episode for your favorite dark fiction serial TV show.
Tracie McBride approaches dark speculative fiction from an experimental angel that is both thought provoking and entertaining. I highly recommend it for the short story lover.
I give Ghosts Can Bleed by Tracie McBride 4 severed heads. Thanks Tracie. I look forward to more of your writing.
Heads Will Roll,
Heads Will Roll,