My apologies for the long delay. Moving can really knock the wind out of your sails and this blog just kind of slipped to the wayside. I still can read and I’m now settled into my new home so more reviews will start coming through. Thank you for you patience, now on with the show!
I picked up Age of Blight off of a twitter recommendation. It said that it was one of the best sci-fi short story collections that they had read in some time. I’m glad that I happened to have seen that testimony on that particular day and followed up by ordering it because it is one of the weirdest, eeriest, and well put together collections of recent work that I have seen in a minute.
I don’t know if I would label Age of Blight strictly science fiction because what makes it great also makes it difficult to categorize. It does have elements of science fiction but it also has elements of horror and of modern fairy tales. It is all of it rolled up into one surreal collection. If I had to find an equivalent then I would have to lean to film and in particular; David Cronenberg. Many times, I was reminded of him. Kristine Ong Muslim’s horror is not from the external but from the horror of humanity’s actions and from what the body can be misfired to do. The terrors come from inside not out.
My personal favorite story would have to be “The Playground”. I feel that it best relays what is so unique to Kristine Ong Muslim’s book in that it stays to the vague. The story only gives you as much of a glimpse as the bystanders get in the story. The reader knows only as much as those witnessing the horrors and strangeness in the book. There is a mythology at play here and there is definitive world building but Kristine leads her readers with a casual helping hand instead of the common iron fist of mythos. There are similarities and common mentions throughout the stories but they are not on central display but merely part of the environment.
The book is divided into four sections. Each one builds onto the next, crafting this horrible world until the apocalypse comes in the fourth section, the books namesake: The Age of Blight. But this apocalypse is not a simple annihilation of everything we know but a shifting, a twisting of what we know into something completely unrecognizable.
In the end, this book is more effective not in showing new horrors to the reader but forcing them to look out into the world and wonder at what potential strangeness lurks behind even the most familiar doors.
Age of Blight and other works by Kristine Ong Muslim can be found here. Look her up. Seriously. She will quickly become your new favorite author.