The first (and until this book arrived) only example of Jeffrey Ford 's work I had encountered was a very strange and amazingly unique tale in an anthology called Creatures. It was an update on the happenings on Dr. Moreau's island. It was wild. I have since obtained a few of his older works. When I saw he had a new collection on the horizon, I reached out about obtaining a review copy and the wish was granted.
A Natural History of Hell is most likely covered under the "weird fiction" overcoat. His premises and narratives are quite unusual and often times darkly humorous. The collection opens with "The Blameless," wherein a suburban couple are invited to the exorcism of a neighbor's daughter. it's quite an event-there are snacks and drinks and small talk until the exorcist arrives and starts removing demons. This story is followed by my favorite, "Word Doll." A writer (also named Jeffrey Ford) investigates a closed down roadside attraction and hears a tale about the pacifying and healing nature of words and distraction. But not all healing is scar -free and not all the stories children conjure are whimsy. This one is brilliant.
"The Angel Seems" is a toothy tale about a village held under the thumb of a creature claiming to be an angel. "Mount Chary Galore" offers back-woodsy folk tale and natural magic and a communicative severed head in a jar. "Blood Drive" is a meditation on the gun issue, you wish it was more exaggerated than it actually is. "A Terror" is a wonderful period drama that concerns Emily Dickinson and a weary world traveler, Death.
"Rocket ship To Hell" exposes writers and readers being as they are while "The Fairy Enterprise" delivers the story of a businessman who longs to craft fairies on demand. "The Last triangle" is an excursion into modern sorcery. "The Thyme Fiend" is one of the best things in here. A wonderful almost Coming-of-Age tale about an ill boy living in Ohio, in 1915. he sees the dead and becomes a deputy to their quest for closure. If it sounds familiar in premise, it is but let me tell you, Ford's prose and rich characters elevate this above anything else.
There are a few tales I didn't shine a light on, they are good stories too, but I have to leave some surprises, right? Ford writes with a clear voice and a focal prowess that is exhilarating. His ideas are fresh and the populace of his tales well rendered and relatable. A great writer giving us great stories.
A Natural History of Hell is available from Small beer Press .
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