cover image The Measure of Sorrow: Stories

The Measure of Sorrow: Stories

J. Ashley-Smith. Meerkat, $17.95 trade paper (202p) ISBN 978-1-946154-77-4

The debut collection from Ashley-Smith (Ariadne, I Love You) proves that he can pack just as much of a punch in short horror fiction as in his Shirley Jackson Award–winning longer work. Throughout these 10 stories, his talent for scene-setting especially shines; the inherent alienation of the rural Australian settings of “The Family Madness” and “The Measure of Sorrow” do as much to enhance their protagonists’ breaks with reality as the teeming, humid rainforest lends to the collapsing rot of one man’s life in “Our Last Meal.” The bushfire-charred moonscape of once-familiar picnic grounds exists in deeply uncanny parallel to a mostly destroyed family trying to survive however they can in “Old Growth,” and a flood-rotted dream house falls out from under a mother-to-be in “The Moth Tapes.” Perhaps best of all is “The Black Massive,” set in England, in the gray edge between the city and the fens, where two teenage ravers fall in with a man offering them chemical escape, a beat they can dance to, and an introduction to the darkness of the void beyond death. For lovers of voicey, elegant prose that lingers for days in the corners of the mind, this is highly recommended. (June)