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Black juice by Margo Lanagan

Black juice (original 2004; edition 2006)

by Margo Lanagan

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Title:Black juice
Authors:Margo Lanagan
Info:London: Gollancz, 2006, c2004. 230 p. ; 20 cm.
Collections:Your library
Tags:short stories, collection, fantasy, science fiction, world fantasy award winner, ditmar

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Black Juice by Margo Lanagan (2004)



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4Q, 1P The short story "Singing My Sister Down" fits perfectly with the theme of the book showing darkness and light in every story. The story somehow manages to pull together murder, justice, honor, family, and love into one hauntingly disturbing 16 page story. The writing could only be improved by fewer pronouns. As it is I had to reread multiple passages to figure out which characters were being referred to. Although craftful, I found the story to be unsatisfying and it reminds me of stories I never would have read if they hadn't been required in high school literature classes.
  amkj | May 14, 2013 |
Black Juice by Margo Lanagan is a collection of ten short stories with a science fiction or fantasy bent. The book is oddly, as the SF Site Review notes, classified as juvenile fiction. While many of the main characters are young, it doesn't read as being specifically written for teens. As the stories are open for interpretation, I can, though, see them being used in a junior or senior high school English course.

The first story — "Singing My Sister Down" — was the stand out for me. A family goes to watch their daughter sink into the hot tar as punishment for a crime that is only vaguely described. It reminds me in terms of language and tone to Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery."

The other stories to me seemed unnecessarily vague. In afterword, Lanagan explains the inspiration for each story. Frankly, I wish I had read that first. It would have made understanding and appreciating the stories easier.

Take for example, "Pippit." It's a story of slow talking giants who miss their small human friend, whom they see as a Messiah. They want to escape to go find him. To me, the story read like the creatures were whales, perhaps. Turns out they're elephants.

To be honest, I got tired of trying to wrap my head around these stories. I didn't make it through the entire collection. Other reviewers, though, have had much better success and enjoyment from reading Black Juice. ( )
  pussreboots | May 9, 2013 |
Singin my sister down
My Lord's man
Red nose day
Sweet Pippit
House of the many
Wooden bride - Tiptree shortlist 2005
Earthly uses
Perpetual light
Rite of spring ( )
  SChant | Apr 27, 2013 |
Weirdly wonderful. Lanagan manages to capture whole worlds in her brief glimpses of strange and fascinating characters. Even though I would have welcomed longer explorations of each of her worlds, each story felt complete in and of itself. The imagery she uses is simply gorgeous as well. ( )
  JenJ. | Mar 31, 2013 |
Singing My Sister Down: aside from the horror of a loving family singing to their disgraced member during her slow public execution, I found most interesting that we never learn what drove the sister to kill as well as the victim's parents' reaction to one child's reaction to his only sister's death. I inferred from the story that this society doesn't care about why someone kills or if the person was even sane -- one punishment fits all.
Four stars.

My Lord's Man: according to the two pages of acknowledgments at the book's end, Ms. Lanagan was inspired by a song called 'Seven Yellow Gypsies'. I looked it up and it is a variant title for a ballad I know better as 'The Raggle Taggle Gypsies'. The viewpoint given is that of the lord's extremely loyal manservant, who has no use at all for his master's wife. I was not expecting the ending. three stars.

Red Nose Day: had to look up 'wowserism' and Jeux des Buffons (I remember very little of my schoolgirl French), but this is a chilling little tale about a couple of young serial killers. They're shooting clowns from what was once a convent before the nuns were murdered. Each boy has his own reason for murdering clowns. I find one petty and the other more understandable. three stars.

Sweet Pippit: a small herd of elephants search for the man who cared for them with love before one of the herd went mad and other men took him away. It's told from one of the elephants' viewpoint. four stars

House of the Many: this story seems to be about a very patriarchal cult. My lip started curling as Bard Jo started to describe Anneh, Robbreh, and Viljastramaratan, their goddess and gods. The goddess is the one who does all the work while the father god talks wisdom. Their child is wild. I didn't like Bard Jo's rules, but his reaction to a little boy who started singing too loudly really roused my wrath. The best scene with Bard Jo is the one where he compares himself to young Dot's mother. (Dot is a boy, by the way.) I liked the eulogy for a severely handicapped child. four stars

Wooden Bride: At first I thought this might be about becoming a nun in some futuristic society, but as I read on, it seemed to be more like graduation day from finishing school. Matty Weir, who has the reputation of never finishing anything, is determined to make it to the church and through the bridde ceremony no matter how many difficulties she brings on herself. I liked her. four stars.

Earthly Uses: My late father was an abused child who grew up to be an abuser (to his kids, not Mom). The portrayal of the physically and verbally abusive grandfather in this story is very well done. I understand the boy's need to keep his thoughts from his Gran-Pa, especially when they differed from his. The end of the story made me grin hugely. five stars

Perpetual Light: the best scenes, in my opinion, were the flashbacks to the heroine's memories of her grandmother, especially when they watched a bird courtship. Good luck with those seeds. three stars.

Yowlinin: this is a real chiller of a story that I think could do well as an episode of some horror show. The heroine is worth plenty of the boy she has a crush on. five stars

Rite of Spring: it's another poor narrator who is called 'boy,' this time by his mother, who also tells him he's 'thick'. This society values the 'Deep Ones' who perform the rituals that ensure a proper change of season. The narrator's scrawny brother, Florius, is a Deep One. People have been making much of Florius for years. The only one who makes much of the narrator is his dog. It's time to go up on the mountain and perform the rite that will turn winter into spring, but Florius is very sick. So is Mum. Now it's up to the narrator to brave the blizzard on the mountain. He doesn't want to go, but his mother insists. He has to say all the words properly and heaven forbid he lose the fancy robe to the howling wind. Can he do it? Can he even survive? four stars

These are good stories, but don't read it if you're feeling down or blue -- and especially avoid it if you're depressed.

Amy Ryan is the artist for the cover with what look like part of two reddish-brown leaves or a brown bat's wings, blackish-greenish liquid in the middle, and squiggly white outlines in greenish-black liquid at the bottom. The title and author's name are enclosed in a box.
  JalenV | Feb 25, 2013 |
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Series (with order)
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Original title
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First words
WE ALL WENT DOWN to the tar pit, with mats to spread our weight. (Singing My Sister Down)
MULLORD RIDES FAST AWAY, to the forest. (My Lord's Man)
HAVE YOU GOTTA DO that? (Red Nose Day)
WE SET OUT IN the depth of night, having held ourselves still all evening. (Sweet Pippit)
DOT WAS VERY YOUNG. (House of the Many)
Between the author's surname and title on the spine is the design that appears under the titles of the stories inside. Is it a four-petaled flower? Four black birds with a white V on their wings and two white dots on their tails flying off at a slant in different directions? Four angry bat heads with their muzzles forming a diamond shape?

COPYRIGHT PAGE NOTICES: All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is included, as are two ISBNs. One ISBN is for the library bound edition.

NOTE: The dust jacket price is above the UPC code on the back instead of the upper right corner of the front flap.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060743905, Hardcover)

As part of a public execution, a young boy forlornly helps to sing his sister down. . . . A servant learns about grace and loyalty from a mistress who would rather dance with Gypsies than sit on her throne. . . . A terrifying encounter with a demonic angel gives a young man the strength he needs to break free of his oppressor. . . . On a bleak and dreary afternoon a gleeful shooting spree leads to tragedy for a desperate clown unable to escape his fate.

(see all 3 descriptions)

Provides glimpses of the dark side of civilization and the beauty of the human spirit through ten short stories that explore significant moments in people's lives, events leading to them, and their consequences. As part of a public execution, a young boy forlornly helps to sing his sister down. A servant learns about grace and loyalty from a mistress who would rather dance with Gypsies than sit on her throne. A terrifying encounter with a demonic angel gives a young man the strength he needs to break free of his oppressor. On a bleak and dreary afternoon a gleeful shooting spree leads to tragedy for a desperate clown unable to escape his fate. In each of Margo Lanagan's ten extraordinary stories, human frailty is put to the test by the implacable forces of dark and light, man and beast. black juice offers glimpses into familiar, shadowy worlds that push the boundaries of the spirit and leave the mind haunted with the knowledge that black juice runs through us all.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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