Wonderful, strange, horrid, and lovely, THE VERY BEST OF CAITLÍN R. KIERNAN is a rollercoaster of unexpected beauty

THE VERY BEST OF CAITLÍN R. KIERNAN continues to astound.

At NERDS OF FEATHER, FLOCK TOGETHER, Adri Joy praises the collection.

A few days on, I don’t feel equipped to translate my reactions to this rollercoaster of unexpected beauty, unapologetic queerness and distilled “oh, YIKES” into a coherent review. All I can say is, like all good rollercoasters, it left me dizzy and excited and desperate to go around again, even though I know the many, many moments during the experience itself where I just wanted it to be over.


I made more save-for-later highlights in this book than I have in any other title in 2019 so far. I come out of the other end wide eyed, hands clenched in hair, adrenalin spent and memories perhaps less reliable than they should be: this collection has done its job well.

Rating: 8/10

Photo: Kyle Cassidy

Duncan Lawie for STRANGE HORIZONS likes the book.

Still, having read all the wonderful, strange, horrid, lovely stories in this volume, I would not trust any of her narrators to be reliable enough, or sure enough of themselves, to tell me their author’s intent. Stories told in the first person, which make up the majority of the collection, give Kiernan a powerful tool to avoid telling too much, placing the perspective of the narrator outside the events or, more often, sufficiently disturbed or confused by what is happening that she—or, occasionally, he—is unable to tell the story directly. Even when the story is not first person, though, there is significant opportunity for elision or distraction via the use of “chapterising” and placing components out of linear order.


With 250 stories to Kiernan’s name, it is impossible for this reader to tell how representative these are of her fiction career of nearly thirty years.  Indeed, even within this collection I have named fewer than half the available stories, but I hold each of them close—except the ones I want to forget, and those seem to hold on to me.



“History is a steamroller. History is a litany of war.”

Including those two suns upon Japan, then Korea, and the Beauty and the Beast, the building of Trump’s wall, one with large enough gate for killing’s bait, Satan and God, angels in Milton and Blake. This incredible work, another vision for my mind’s still living tapestry of others’ discrete visions. It is of Ann Darrow and King Kong, including our archetypal images from the Fay Wray film. And various alternate paths Ann could have taken as stemming from that. The island itself a primordial orphan. The Art-Deco Calvary of Empire’s State. The beast “…hauled away in the rusty hold of that evil-smelling ship.” The beauty “hauled free of the morass of her own nightmares.” To that “All-At-Once time”, and become the girl as well as the ‘Golden Mother’. “Once I built a tower up to the sun,” not a wall of division hugging the land.

For more info about THE VERY BEST OF CAITLÍN R. KIERNAN, visit the Tachyon page.

Cover by Hannes Hummel
Design by Elizabeth Story