Thank You to Tachyon Publications for providing me with an advance copy of Ellen Klages’ short story collection, Wicked Wonders, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT– In her short story collection, Wicked Wonders, Ellen Klages explores a variety of themes; such as pregnancy in space, teenagers caught in a parallel world of classic board games, and what to do with a twenty-year old ham that has been aging in the basement of your childhood home. Wicked Wonders contains stories in several genres, including high fantasy, science-fiction, and literary fiction. Klages writes stories that are hilarious, heartbreaking, and unforgettable.
LIKE– Wicked Wonders is my first experience with Klages’ writing. Although I now realize that she is well-known and award-winning, I had not heard of her prior to this collection. I have added all of her books to my wishlist = must read more now! Wicked Wonders is marvelous. Klages has a unique world-view and her stories are both fresh and surprising. While reading this collection, I felt a range of emotions, from laughing to crying and everything in-between.
I loved that Klages included background info on all of her stories, explaining her inspiration for each. As a fellow writer, I felt relieved to find a kindred spirit in Klages with regard to how she becomes fixated on certain things, especially during research, and that her writing process is a little scattered. She’s an amazing writer and hearing about her process gives me hope!
The entire collection is strong, but here are a few of my favorite stories.
The Scary Ham – I didn’t realize this was non-fiction as I was reading it, but Klages confirms that this story was autobiographical, about her cleaning out her childhood home after her parents died. In the basement, her father has kept an expensive ham that he has been curing for two decades. Klages and her sister decide to throw a funeral for the ham. It’s hilarious. Having dealt with more than my fair share of family death and cleaning out homes, I can relate. I’ve never found a ham, but there are weird secrets lurking when you start emptying a house, and if you don’t laugh about it, you’d probably cry.
Echoes of Aurora– Jo returns to her childhood home after her father dies and meets a mysterious woman, who moves in with her. This story is beautiful and unexpected. I loved the story world, with Jo’s family having owned an arcade in a lakeside tourist town. The arcade has not been maintained over the years and it’s filled is unusual vintage machines. This mysterious story is a constant battle between decay and life.
Friday Night at St. Cecilia’s – Rachel is grounded on a Friday night at her Catholic boarding school and her evening is rather dull, until the new housekeeper, Mrs. Llewelyn, invites her to play a game. I loved the creativity in this story, with Rachel finding herself lost in a board game world. Clue is my all-time favorite board game, so I got a kick out of being included. This story is funny and sinister.
Goodnight Moons– Zoe has dreamed of space travel, and after years of hard work and good fortune, she has been picked to go on a colonization mission to Mars. It’s suppose to be short-term; years, not a lifetime. However, while Zoe is in space, she learns that she is pregnant and that changes everything. It’s hard to choose, but this may be my very favorite in Wicked Wonders. It stuck with me. It made me feel uncomfortable. The part that is troublesome is the reactions that Zoe receives regarding her pregnancy and the shift in her life. Baby aside, other choices now cease to be her own. Her wishes and dreams cease to matter. It’s terrifying.
DISLIKE– Nothing. Klages is such a gifted writer, I can’t wait to read more of her stories.
RECOMMEND– Yes, yes, yes!!!! Klages is the best “new-to-me” author discovery that I’ve made in a long time. I have a serious crush on her writing style. I enjoyed the diversity of the stories included in Wicked Wonders. I don’t often read fantasy or science-fiction, so it was great to step out of my reading comfort zone.