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Red Spikes    by Margo Lanagan order for
Red Spikes
by Margo Lanagan
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, e-Book

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*   Reviewed by Sally Selvadurai

Advance publicity for this collection of short stories was glowing, entreating young readers to delve into Lanagan's work, so I began the quest myself with great expectation. I cannot say that I was wholly satisfied with Red Spikes.

Although some of the tales are interesting I found most rather bizarre and many downright troubling, particularly Under Hell, Over Heaven. It leaves the reader to imagine an afterlife of nothingness, with souls trapped for an eternity in the Outer, between the ecstasy of heaven and the horror of eternal damnation, and all through no fault of their own: 'The Outer's grayness had her; it walled the thought she was reaching for in fog, embedded the feeling in cloud; it clumsied her toes and fingers and all her finer faculties and left her with only this, the barest inclination to keep moving, in the direction that felt like forward, but might turn out to never be forward, or backward, or any way, anywhere, ever.'

How utterly depressing many of these stories are. Though they're written to show us what it is to be human, Lanagan seems more often than not to dwell upon the darker side of human nature, preying upon our insecurities, shattering our dreams, probing our neuroses or terrors. This is not a book that I would recommend to an angst-ridden teen.

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