Sheree Renée Thomas, Nine Bar Blues, Third Man Books, 2020.
I rarely review short stories collections or anthologies, so as you can guess, when I do it, it's because the collection or anthology is exceptional. Thomas' Nine Bar Blues, a collection of 16 short stories, is, indeed, exceptional.
When it comes to Sheree Renée Thomas' prose, adjectives aren't enough. Her prose is rich, subtle, evocative. The rhythm of her sentences is always a delight, taking you on a musical trip with words only. It is both music and poetry.
To put it simply, if what you're looking for is stories written by a master, then look no further.
All the stories are speculative fiction. Defining them into a sub-genre is trickier, though most of the time, we are in weird fiction and fantasy territory, sometimes with mild horror undertones. You'll encounter death, and shadows, and creatures there's no name for. What struck me most is how much those stories are also filled with joy even when they are bleak. All the characters, in a way or another, hope, love, and strive, and sometimes dance, even in the face of the despair.
Some of my own favourites included Head Static, and Madame and The Map: A Journey in Five Movements. Both will undoubtedly leave a deep impression on you.
Nine Bar Blues isn't a collection you'll read in one sitting. The prose requires your full attention so that you can let it carry you away, some stories are opaque and you have to find more than their shapes when you have finished reading them.
Thomas has written a collection that you need to read if you love literary speculative fiction and that will be remembered for a long time so high she has set the bar.
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All reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated otherwise.
I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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