Lynda E. Rucker‘s first collection The Moon Will Look Strange, from the tiny outfit of Karoshi Books, is the kind of title that makes Big Publishing look irrelevant. I mean, if the results can be this good, and achieve this relatively high level of recognition, why even bother to look elsewhere? Overreaction maybe, but I hope you get my point.
Because this is a Very Good Book. Indeed. Of the eleven tales in it, three – “The Burned House”, “In Death’s Other Kingdom”, and “These Foolish Things” – are first-time appearances. That actually comprises a large portion of her published work to date. But on such slender bases great reputations are built. And if you want a taster, you can read one story not in the collection, “The House on Cobb Street”, for free online, here.
“I write stories,” says Rucker on her blog. “They often seem to be about people who are lost, or longing for something that is just out of their reach. I don’t do that on purpose; I just follow the words and the images where they take me.” In her Acknowledgments, she actually talks of almost giving up writing at one point, which would have been a huge loss, but luckily editors and friends encouraged her to start again.
Almost all the stories do seem to concern emotional disconnections and people struggling to regain contact with something or someone – but with weird and often horrible interventions, as in the title story. (And you’re going to have to read it to see why the moon will look strange, but you may not like the answer.) And the titular figures of “The Chance Walker” and “Ash-Mouth” are not people – or things – you would like to meet. Her prose is enviably limpid. Rucker writes with the sensitivity to other cultures of an American who has lived outside America for a very long time. “In the last year he had learned that things about himself which he had long imagined to be the very essence of Paul-ness were in fact culturally concocted mannerisms,” cogitates the character in her story “No More A’Roving”. “The discovery was troubling, as though something vital had been stolen from him.” And others often evoke Robert Aickman about her, not least because of a teasing ambiguity in the resolution – or not – of the stories. But that doesn’t leave any sense of dissatisfaction. I read the whole collection through at one setting, it’s so good. And almost every story will linger alarmingly in the mind. Recommended.