Rebecca Lloyd's Mercy and Other Stories was published by Tartarus Press in March 2014.
Information about Rebecca Lloyd:
Winning the 2008 Bristol Short Story Prize for her story 'The River', Rebecca Lloyd, a writer and editor from Bristol, UK, was shortlisted in the 2010 Dundee International Book Prize and was a semi-finalist in the Hudson Prize for a short story collection in the same year. Her novel Halfling was published by Walker Books in 2011, and in the following year she was co-editor with Indira Chandrasekhar, of Pangea, an Anthology of Stories from Around the Globe, with Thames River Press. In 2014, her short story collection Whelp and Other Stories was shortlisted in the Paul Bowles Award for Short Fiction, and her collection The View From Endless Street was published by WiDo Publishing.
Click here to visit the author's official website.
Information about Mercy and Other Stories:
Rebecca Lloyd's first published collection of sixteen strange stories, nine of which are previously unpublished, is made up of tales of unease with a sprinkling of the ghostly, menacing and fantastical. The stories inhabit the fragile space between fantasy and reality, where the landscape is in constant flux and things are not quite as they seem.
In "Mercy" a loving husband finds an unusual method of prolonging his affection for his wife, while the inhabitant of a half-way house finds a creative use for internet dating in "Salsa". Alan runs away from the circus in "The Lover", and in "The Reunion", eccentric and elderly Isobel and Charles, struggling with the upkeep of their decaying mansion, chose an entirely new way to face the future. In "Maynard's Mountain", the search for a lost lottery ticket involves a traveller family in a (literally) uphill task.
Rebecca Lloyd's is a stylish and distinctive new voice in the field of the strange tale, and it is hoped that this collection will chill and entertain in equal measure.
A REVIEW REBECCA LLOYD'S MERCY AND OTHER STORIES
Mercy and Other Stories is a remarkable collection of literary strange stories by one of the rising stars in the field of literary strange fiction. I was impressed by this collection and I'm compelled to praise it, because it was a tour de force of beautiful literary prose and stylish storytelling.
Rebecca Lloyd has a voice of her own, and she has an ability to write unique stories. She writes different kinds of stories and even dares to surprise her readers by a couple of delightfully absurd and unconventional stories. When I read this collection, I noticed that some of the stories were traditional weird stories, but others were firmly rooted in contemporary strange fiction (the author excelled at writing both kinds of stories).
Rebecca Lloyd writes about life, love, loss, guilt, relationships and marriage in a way that is reminiscent of stories written by the best authors of literary fiction and old masters of strange fiction. Because many readers of strange fiction have come to expect psychological elements, beautiful prose and wonderful strangeness from weird stories, it's nice that all of these things can be found in this collection.
Mercy and Other Stories is a World Fantasy Award 2015 nominee for the best collection and deservedly so, because it's an excellent collection in every regard. It contains original and charmingly peculiar stories that will please readers who want the best from their strange fiction. Because the author has courage to venture along paths not often trodden and explores life from a skewed perspective, this collection is something extraordinary and deserves to be read by all who appreciate strange fiction.
Mercy and Other Stories contains the following sixteen stories:
- "The Careless Hour"
- "The Stone"
- "The Meat Freezer"
- "What Comes?"
- "Lucky Cat"
- "The Bath"
- "The Gathering"
- "Gone to the Deep"
- "Maynard's Mountain"
- "The Lover"
- "All That Follows"
- "The Reunion"
All of these stories are marked by subtle beauty of the prose and intricate storytelling. There's no fluff or platitudes in them, because the author has done her best to write good stories. The driving force behind these stories is undoubtedly love and interest for the literary strange fiction and the uncanny.
Just like all the best collections of strange stories, this collection can be read many times. These stories are so beautifully written, intricate and strange that you can't help but be impressed and captivated by them. Each time you read them, you'll find something new in them.
Here's more information about the stories and my thoughts about them:
- A story about a man and his dead wife who died of tubeculosis. The man's devotion to his wife exhibits itself in strange ways.
- This is a beautifully disturbing story about love and the transience of beauty.
"The Careless Hour":
- An excellent story about Whitey and Michael who are neighbours.
- A beautifully written story with sinister undertones.
- An intriguing story about a man, his metal detector and a stone he founds during one of his treasure hunts.
- The author writes well about the protagonist's life and his fascination towards the stone.
- A story about Kathy, an inhabitant of a half-way house, and her internet dating with Tom.
- A well written story that's something a bit different.
"The Meat Freezer":
- A chilling story about Gary who has been allocated a house on a rough estate where he tries to return back to the community.
- This is one of the best stories I've read this year, because it's a chilling and strangely fascinating story.
- In this well written story, two sisters, who have had their parents cremated against their wishes, find themselves haunted by spirits.
- An excellent ghost story in which the author writes well about guilt and hauntings.
- An excellent story about folklore and superstition involving shoes hidden in apartments.
- This is one of the best stories in this collection, because it has a perfect atmosphere.
- The authors refers well to mental illness in this story.
- A story about Peter and his family, and how Peter does weird things to the Stationmaster in his toy train set.
- This story features an interesting look at family life.
- A story about Marcia and Lenny, who saves people from committing suicide.
- An interesting story with an excellent ending.
- This is an unforgettable story about a man who finds out that his neighbour is keeping his wife in the bathroom and thinks that she's a dolphin.
- An exceptionally good and wonderfully absurd story about an unusual and different kind of a marriage.
- A creepy story about Pat and Alex who are afraid of "the gatherings" in a small village.
- An excellent and deeply atmospheric horror story in which the author's sense of fear and style are at full display.
"Gone to the Deep":
- A story about Lizzy who marries an islander, Jim, who used to be a fisherman. When Lizzy moves to the island, she finds out that her husband is mesmerised by something strange and threatening.
- A beautifully written story with a fascinatingly weird atmosphere.
- This story was originally published in Strange Tales, Volume IV (Tartarus Press, 2014).
- In this story, a search for a lottery ticket turns into something strange, because Colin persuades his wife and daughter to live with him on a rubbish dump.
- An amazing and well written story with an interesting glimpse into family life.
- A good and a bit different kind of a story about circus and a man who loves bears.
- This story reminded me slightly of "Taboo" by Robert Shearman.
"All That Follows":
- A well-told story about a doctor who has had severe problems with one of his female patients.
- The author writes well about the doctor's life and how he tries to start a new life.
- In this story, Fairy visits her parents, Charles and Isobel, who live in a decaying mansion called Shuttered House.
- An excellent story with a beautifully written and satisfying ending.
"Mercy" is one of the most beautifully written and disturbing stories I've ever read. The author writes hauntingly about the protagonist's love and devotion to his dead wife and to what lengths he has gone to preserve her body. This is an impressive story that will fascinate fans of strange fiction, because it isn't often that one has an opportunity to read about the transcience of beauty in such a unique and disturbing way.
"The Careless Hour" is a fascinating and complex story about Whitey who hears through the wall what happens when Michael invites a woman called Catherine over for a meal. Whitey hears fragments of conversation and is concerned about what's happening, but doesn't hear enough to truly understand what happens between Michael and Catherine. This story is an expectionally intriguing story about half-truths.
In "The Stone", the author writes fascinatingly about the relationship between Martin and his wife, Ellen. Martin is so caught up in his own world that he almost totally ignores Ellen's feelings and needs (Martin often thinks about Ellen who has gone to live with her sister). The author writes wonderfully about what happens when Martin brings the stone he has found home and suddenly notices that a mysterious presence begins to haunt him.
One of strongest stories in this collection is "The Meat Freezer", which is a true masterpiece of disturbing fiction. It's a story about Gary, who has been allocated a house on the Ackroyd estate where he tries to return back to the community and fights against his impulses. The author writes well about Gary's observations about a teenaged boy who trespasses on his property. These effective observations lead the story to a perfect and memorable ending, because there's a possibility that what has happened may have been done by Gary or by the trespassing boy himself. I can guarantee that this story will linger on your mind when you've finished reading it.
"The Bath" is a story that is difficult to forget once you've read it. It's an exceptionally well written story about a man, John, who finds out strange things about his neighbour, Gavin, and his wife, Margaret. John finds out that Gavin has kept Margaret in the bathroom for a long time, because he thinks that Margaret is a dolphin. Margaret has gone along with her husband's folly, because she wants to please her husband and pretends to be a dolphin. John tries to help Margaret, but can't quite understand what's going on in his neighbour's house and who is mad. This story is something that could've have easily been written by Rhys Hughes, because it features the same kind of absurd and darkly humorous elements that are present in many of his stories.
"The Gathering" is one of the best horror stories published during the recent years. It's a memorable story about Pat and Alex who have been friends ever since they were children. They're both terrified of "the gatherings" that occur in the woods near the village. This story is effectively told from Pat's point of view as he recounts the weird happenings to his psychiatrist. I was impressed by this story, because it's classic creepy horror at its best.
"Gone to the Deep" is a story which gets the highest possible rating and praise from me, because it's strange horror fiction at its best. It's a well-told tale of exceptional beauty and touching bittersweetness. In this story, Lizzy marries an islander, Jim, who used to be a fisherman, and moves to Craull. Soon she finds out that Jim has lost his brother and is being enchanted and mesmerised by a sea spirit that will most likely have him. I consider this Aickmanesque story to be a masterpiece, because it's simultaneously bittersweet, compelling and chilling recounting of strange happenings.
"Maynard's Mountain" is one of the best stories in this collection. I have to mention that I don't remember reading anything like this ever before, because it's an absurd and well written story about how a man is capable of persuading his whole family to participate in a search for a lottery ticket in a rubbish dump. The author examines the closeness of family members and love between them in a unique way in this delightfully quirky story. This is another story that reminded me slightly of Rhys Hughes and his writing style.
"The Reunion" is a beautifully written and touching - yet sharp - story about Fairy and her parents, Charles and Isobel, who live in an old and decaying mansion. The author wrote well about how Fairy observed her parents, their arguments and their struggle to live in the mansion. Living in the old mansion had affected Fairy's parents and their marriage quite a lot, because life wasn't easy in the mansion and it was difficult to heat up the place. It was interesting to read what happened to Fairy's parents when they decided to live in a canal boat, because it meant change for them. In my opinion, this story is an excellent example of the author's ability to write fluently about characters, life and relationships in an intriguing way.
I consider this collection to be an outstanding achievement in contemporary strange fiction, because it pushes and expands the boundaries of strangeness and what's thought of as strange to new directions. It was fascinating how well the author wrote about strange happenings and how easily she connected them to everyday life.
I was slightly reminded of Angela Carter, Robert Aickman and Rhys Hughes when I read these stories, because some of the elements the author has used in her stories are similar to the elements found in their stories. There are, however, many differences that set the author apart from other authors, because certain elements and plot devices are unique to Rebecca Lloyd's stories. In my opinion, Rebecca Lloyd's approach to different themes and issues is subtly beautiful and haunting, and she knows how to create a good atmosphere.
Rebecca Lloyd's prose is beautiful, evocative and wonderfully nuanced. She writes excellent literary prose and evokes images of different happenings in a fluent and seductive way. She adds elements of unpredictability and ambiguity to her stories and avoids clichés.
One of the best things about this collection is that the author doesn't reveal everything at the beginning of the stories, but takes her time to build the atmosphere. She subtly hints at certain happenings and gradually snares her readers' curiosity by leading them on a satisfying journey toward thrilling discoveries.
Throughout this collection it's possible to see how the past is interwoven with the present, and how different things are connected to each other in strange and at times unexpected ways. Rebecca Lloyd excels at combining the past with the present, and what's best, she gives unique voices to her characters, some of which are truly memorable.
I sincerely hope that Rebecca Lloyd will continue to write literary strange fiction, because she's a talented author and has an ability to write different kinds of stories. (This collection was so good that I'm tempted to take a look at the author's other works.)
The hardcover edition of Mercy and Other Stories is a beautifully made book for all who enjoy reading printed books and appreciate their beauty. It's great that Tartarus Press pays attention to producing good printed editions, because there are many readers who appreciate well-made printed books.
Rebecca Lloyd's Mercy and Other Stories contains exquisitely beautiful, dark and strange stories that will seduce many readers. This stunning collection is proof of the fact that literary strange fiction is currently at full bloom. If you're fascinated by literary strange stories and enjoy reading strange fiction, please do yourself a favour and read this excellent collection as soon as possible, because you'll be impressed by the author's prose and stylish storytelling.