Monday, July 29, 2013

Last Summer at Mars Hill by Elizabeth Hand

Do you recall my kind of glowing review of Stephen Jones's A Book of Horrors from last October? No, go ahead and check it out. I'll wait.

Now, remember that last story on the faves list? "Near Zenor" by Elizabeth Hand? Well that story led me on a search for Elizabeth Hand's backlist titles. One of the books on my must have list was Last Summer at Mars Hill. This collection, originally released in 1998 was Hand's first collection released and the title novella earned her a Nebula and a World Fantasy Award. Pretty impressive stuff! And while there are certainly some of the old physical copies floating around, I've yet to come across one. Fortunately, the folks over at Open Road Media have recently released this collection and more of Hand's backlist as well in e format.

Last Summer at Mars Hill is kind of the perfect example of why I love anthologies so much. Before reading A Book of Horrors, I wasn't at all familiar with Hand's work. Since falling in love with "Near Zenor," though, I found myself really seeking out more of her work. And while I'm looking forward to reading some of her novels, Last Summer gives me a chance to read more of her short fiction, like the one that drew me to her in the first place.

Last Summer includes:

Last Summer at Mars Hill (novella)
"The Erl King"
"Dionysus Dendrites"
"The Have-Nots"
"In the Month of Athyr"
"Engels Unaware"
"The Bacchae"
"Snow on Sugar Mountain"
"On the Town Route"
"The Boy on the Tree"
"Prince of Flowers"

Hand's tales are haunting both in tone and content. The very real setting combined with a fairy tale esque style is something I'm particularly fond of (I do find myself drawn to these kinds of stories quite often - see my post on Gaiman's Ocean at the End of the Lane).

Last Summer at Mars Hill in particular is very couched in the here and now. The set up is a bit of a family vacation but with undertones of something not quite right. It isn't until the story begins to progress that you learn exactly what's off about this trip and the relationship between the central mother and daughter characters. And then you get the supernatural twist. Really it was quite enjoyable and a wonderful progression.

"The Erl King" was a particular favorite of mine thanks to the horrific twist the story took. (Horror roots and all that!)

"Justice" and "The Bacchae" 'cause, well. Yeah. Given some of the things going on in the world, I connected a bit with these.

"Engels Unaware" I heart this story. I did work as a temp for a little while and that might be why I liked it so much, but it's just a darn good tale!

All in all, a fabulous collection and one I'm so glad is available again for new fans (like me!).


Jennifer | Book Den said...

Open Road Media has been re-releasing some really great titles. I love that.

Becky LeJeune said...

Yes! I'm quite impressed with their list. I have a few more of their titles on my list to read right now.