Title / At the Mouth of the River of Bees
Author / Kij Johnson
Publication Date / 2012
Star Rating / ★★★★
This is a short story collection containing 18 stories. Goodreads synopsis: A sparkling debut collection from one of the hottest writers in science fiction: her stories have received the Nebula Award the last two years running. These stories feature cats, bees, wolves, dogs, and even that most capricious of animals, humans, and have been reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, and The Secret History of Fantasy. Kij Johnson’s stories have won the Sturgeon and World Fantasy awards.
Contents: (not in order – 2 missing – Story Kit and Dia Chjerman’s Tale)
The Man Who Bridged the Mist (2011)
Wolf Trapping (1989)
The Empress Jingu Fishes (2004)
The Bitey Cat (2012)
Chenting, in the Land of the Dead (1999)
My Wife Reincarnated as a Solitaire—Exposition on the Flaws in my Spouse’s Character—The Nature of the Bird—The Possible Causes—Her Final Disposition (2007)
Schrödinger’s Cathouse (1993)
Names for Water (2010)
Fox Magic (1993)
The Horse Raiders (2000)
26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss (2008)
At the Mouth of the River of Bees (2003)
The Evolution of Trickster Stories among the Dogs of North Park after the Change (2007)
The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles (2009)
First thing I want to mention is that I am not a big short story collection reader – also I read this on my kindle. This is first collection I have read this year. I read Fudoki also by Kij Johnson earlier in the year and absolutely loved it, so I wanted to try out more of her writing. So this is probably more somewhere between 3.5/4 star rating. There were definitely some stories that I didn’t particularly enjoy and then some that I loved, but I feel like that is always going to be the case with short story collections.
This collection really shows Johnson’s talent as a writer. She seems to effortlessly switch styles and genre between the stories. Even if you do not like the story, you have to admit that they are all written extremely well. You can appreciate the writing while reading the stories that you don’t fully get on with – there are definitely some weird things incorporated into this collection. She is quite a varied writer in terms of the differences between all of these stories. All of the stories and characters are well written and full of depths. I imagine I would pick up on new things if I ever reread this collection. I would say that one unifying thing through alot of her stories is magic. It is definitely not a happy collection, with alot of the stories being quite dark – so if you are looking for a happy, uplifting collection then this probably isn’t for you. There were definitely some that made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I struggled through Spar and I found Schrodinger’s Cathouse to be very bizarre. Some of my favourites included: Fox Magic and The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles. There are some parallels between the short story The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles and her book Fudoki, perhaps that is why I enjoyed it so much. I imagine there will also be parallels between the short story Fox Magic and her other book The Fox Woman, but I have yet to read the book so I can’t say for sure. In many ways I think this would be a great introduction to her writing, because the collection really demonstrates her abilities as a writer and you get such a wide range of stories – there will most likely be something you enjoy in this collection.
Overall I enjoyed dipping in and out of these story collection. There were definitely some that I didn’t particularly enjoy and perhaps made me a bit uncomfortable, but I feel that is to be expected from a short story collection – you are not going to love every story. I really enjoy Johnson’s writing so even if I didn’t like a story I could still appreciate the writing. I would definitely recommend this collection, especially if you like Kij Johnson already. I am very much excited for the release of her new novella The Dream Quest of Vellitt Boe which is coming out in August. Have you read this book? What did you think?
See you next time