Review: Scenting the Dark

A dash of reality, a pinch of dream, mix it with a bit of the fantastic and drizzle with understandable science. ¬†Best served with a glass of horror or anticipation. Would there be a recipe for Mary Robinette Kowal’s new chap book, “Scenting the Dark and Other Stories”, that is what it would look like.

Your dish would come out perfect every time.

When the gorgeous little hard cover arrived by mail from Subterrean Press, I was in love. This is one of those books that if seen in a Borders or Barnes and Nobles, I would have instantly picked it up. The cover design by Sandro Castelli can be seen in this post, but it is only when you hold it in your hands, does the true beauty emerge.

As for the stories, Mary crafts each one of the eight shorts with rich details and memorable characters. John Scalzi mentions her humor, empathy and intelligence in the introduction. Of all three, the empathy is contagious. Mary’s characters are real. With both strengths and faults, the people that she writes could be your own family, neighbors or co-workers. One of the biggest assets a short story writer can have is a character to whom the reader can relate. There was someone in all the stories that I read with whom I genuinely connected.

It is a rarity that a writer can make me feel and care about individuals in such a short amount of time, and Mary seems to do it in all the shorts featured in this book. All of her offerings are extremely strong and intelligent, however a few stand out as my favorites. ¬†“Portrait of Ari”, “Scenting the Dark” and “Jaiden’s Weaver”, had the most impact as I hungrily turned each page.

Mary Robinette Kowal won the Campbell award for best new writer and was nominated in the Hugo Award category, Best Short Story for her brilliant flash, “Evil Robot Monkey”. She deserves every bit of praise. If you haven’t purchased this little gem that showcases her wonderful talent, you’re truly missing out.

Available from Subterrean Press.

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