Book Review – Strange Secrets by Mike Russell

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Short Stories / Fantasy
Publication Date: February 8th, 2018
Publisher: StrangeBooks

Deny and defy, is that really the way to be about death? What does a being become when they die? A flower, perhaps a ghost, or do they unbecome anything at all? Death is secretive and shy, impossible to see but impossible to hide. We don’t talk about it within these walls, in any case.

Strange Secrets is a series of lucid dreams hovering on the line between madness and philosophy, wherever that lies. The whole blossom of it is hard to describe, it doesn’t exactly identify as a genre. Everyone in its pages is escaping the world they know which seems to have warped into an unreality that has, unquestionably, gone strange. It’s quirky and creative and funny while still having an Orwellian creepiness about it – the characters always seem to have their lives constricted by something they don’t understand.

“Death” and “life” are both foul words here. “Change” could be even fouler. To look at them bare is to risk having parts of one’s body melted, or split in two. To look at them is to bring a taboo corpse to life again. To look at them is to win all of the competitions and still fail everything.
But… at least it’s better than the alternative of never knowing the truth, isn’t it?

Personal favourites were “Missing Persons”, a novella-length short about censorship and sugarcoating things we dread, and “Maps”, an ominous and somewhat disturbing short about a boy whose father is an obsessive cartographer. I found the last story, “Forest” to be the low point, it’s a little boring. The rest are wonderful.

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