‘Red Spikes’ is the third book of short stories for Margo Lanagan. Her other two volumes have won numerous awards both in Australia and internationally. These stories are written in the fantasy/horror genre and are quite definitely not for children. They are characterised by a black humour and subverted imagination.
Each of the stories draws the reader immediately into a world that is twisted askew from our familiar one. We are given no explanations as we plunge into the strange scenarios and try to find our feet. For example, in the first story, ‘Baby Jane’, Dylan has to help an alien queen to give birth to her baby. But these alien characters – a soldier, a queen and a bear, are actually toys grown to terrifying and unpredictable life.
Another story, ‘Winkie’, has Wee Willie Winkie as a serial killer stalking a town to catch any children outside after dark. He wears a nightgown made from a patchwork of the skins of his victims. Two of the stories are a picture of heaven, ‘A Feather in the Breast of God’, and hell, ‘Under Hell, Over Heaven’, but not as we usually imagine them.
One of the most remarkable stories is ‘Hero Vale’, set at an English boarding school. But don’t expect a comfortable Harry-Potter feel. These students have adventures which are usually fatal, but if survived, they change the victors forever.
I love Margo Lanagan’s stories because they are completely unique. You will not find anything like them anywhere. Be prepared to be amazed, frightened and transported.