Looking For Jake and Other Stories, by China Miéville
Simply put, Looking For Jake is my favorite collection of short stories, written by my favorite author. I could honestly go on about China Miéville for hours—his ability to build believable and exciting worlds, his skill at creating emotionally deep characters, and his willingness to explore (and often break) the boundaries of genre, technique, and reader expectations are all simply astounding. I highly, highly recommend any of his work, but this collection is a particularly strong and accessible introduction.
In the world of short story collections, Looking for Jake stands out. Technically speaking, this book can be considered an addition to “the new weird,” a variety of speculative fiction that celebrates the exploration of the fantastic. Being supportive of this genre in general, I can’t help but be excited. Every single story contained within—encompassing a wide range of horror, fantasy, science fiction, and all sub-categories lurking between—is worth reading and re-reading. However, there are several that stand out as being prime examples of Miéville’s talent as a storyteller:
— Details is about an old woman, who is haunted by a literal devil in the details—a monster, a cosmic nightmare, that dwells in the lines and edges of perception. Told from a young child’s perspective, this story is a stew of coming-of-age tale, psychological thriller, and Lovecraftian horror.
— In another favorite, Jack, Miéville returns to the city of New Crobuzon, the setting for his acclaimed novel Perdido Street Station. This tale is told from the point of view of a citizen who has witnessed the creation of a Robin Hood-esque legend, and is an excellent example of the author’s ability to build complex—and occasionally horrible— characters.
— And lastly, Reports of Certain Events in London, by far the most innovative story in the collection, is a compilation of various documents allegedly received by the author. These documents—ranging from letters to meeting notes—are put in order to tell a story of, well, certain events of a mysterious nature occurring on the streets of London. The execution is terribly clever.
In short, if you have never read China Miéville, this collection is a fantastic introduction to his work. If you are already a fan, be sure to give it some attention.