5 – Stephen Graham Jones’ The Ones The Got Away
Remember that feeling you got when you first read Ray Bradbury’s The October Country or maybe Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts, thinking, ‘Oh man, I need to tell someone about this right now!’? That want-to-shout-it-from-the-mountaintops feeling and wanting to find someone else who’s read the same thing so you can talk about how great it is, be part of some club of people who just know? I’ve had that experience with a handful of things – being 11 and seeing The Thing with my brother, Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, the Hill collection mentioned above. If I’m lucky I get this feeling every couple of years, but usually it’s longer than that. But then the last couple of days? Oh man. Stephen Graham Jones’ The Ones That Got Away has just slaughtered me, giving me that ‘holy shit’ feeling that resulted in calls to old friends to say, ‘Seriously, go buy this, now’. I was pulled between wanting to rush through the stories fast because they’re that damn good, and wanting to slow down because when I was finished, that was it. Still, three days. And I’m going to reread it in a couple of weeks. I missed stuff, I know, rushing through and all, but it couldn’t be helped.
I’m bad at reviewing and whatnot, so I’ll put it this way – every one of these stories surprised me in a way I didn’t think I could be surprised anymore. I remember reading John Langan’s (great) collection Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters and physically feeling fear in a couple of the stories, and thinking it had been so long since writing had done that for me. But it was all back again in TOTGA, “Raphael” and “Crawlspace”, definitely – the last two pages of those stories are a part of my DNA now, for better or for worse. I finished “Crawlspace” at eleven last night in a quiet house and was in no state of mind to go downstairs to let the dog out. And the contained storytelling mastery in “Father, Son, Holy Rabbit”, “Wolf Island”, and the title story…you just know you’re dealing with something special here.
I’m so hyped about this collection that I’ll give you something to roll your eyes at – this might be the best collection of short stories I’ve ever read. It’ll take some time – always needed to declare something an A1 Favorite, right? – but I’m excited as hell to return to and see how these stories are for me on second reading. Because if it’s anything like the first time – and my gut tells me it’ll be close – man, oh man. Go buy it here.