Indelible Tales

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Extremities are fingers and toes, the human parts that float out in space like exposed roots of underwater plants waving with the current. They are also points of lost perspective, departures from the safety of perceived reality – of signs of reality. In Kathe Koja’s new collection of short horror tales, Extremities: Stories, these dual definitions are at work and they creep darkly into the senses.

Koja has discovered secret passages and amorphous emotions, putting her finger on potential terrors, anticipating fear before it is fear. The highly intuitive, contemplative works in this collection reach the ultra-human via imagination and exploring the paranormal. Inside "Arrangement for Invisible Voices," "Angels in Love," "The Disquieting Muse," "Bondage" and other stories, recurrent themes haunt and comfort, trap and release, frustrate and engross with a bizarre but palpable rhythm that is only interrupted by too many sentence fragments.

These slow, disturbing stories obsess over the color green, death, the Earth (air, soil and water), physical transformations, voices in the head and the presence of angels. And within the jagged outlines of Koja’s fiction, it’s as if such thoughts make a world all their own. And maybe they do.

"The Neglected Garden," as wildly imaginative and memorable as an actual nightmare, makes a great centerpiece. Touching on human emotion, suicide and self-empowerment, Koja grows a green messiah out of a defeated, rejected woman who crucifies herself on a garden gate and transcends death.

Even with its technical quirks, Extremities: Stories is a weighty, invasive yet worthwhile read that leaves a mark on the psyche that will not easily fade away.

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