The email newsletter “Unbound Worlds” is one of my favorite sources for books relating to Science Fiction and Fantasy. Right around the time of the release of the movie version of Annihilation, based on the book of the same name by Jeff Vandermeer, there was an article entitled “Loved Annihilation? Here’s What to Read Next.” One of the books recommended was Jagannath a collection of thirteen short stories written by Karin Tidbeck.
I had read the story “Reindeer Mountain” by Karin Tidbeck during the “Season of Stories” event that Penguin Random House does in the fall. This particular story had captured my imagination when I had originally read it and I decided to get the book.
The description of the short stories in Jagannath from the back of the book is as follows:
“A child is born in a tin can. A switchboard operator connects a call to Hell. Three corpulent women float somewhere beyond time. Welcome to the world of visionary Swedish author Karin Tidbeck, in which fairies haunt quiet towns and an immortal being discovers the nature of time- a world in which anything is possible. Alternately funny and frightening, moving and monstrous, Tidbeck’s dynamically diverse stories play wildly across many genres, shifting seamlessly from science fiction to magical realism to mythic fantasy. Amidst the real and unreal, the familiar and unfamiliar, the thirteen unforgettable tales in this collection make their perilous but beguiling home in the spaces in between.”
Although the description does a good job, I personally find it hard to describe the stories in this collection. These stories haunt your imagination, you think about them long after reading them.
Each of these stories are unique. The story “Beatrice” definitely had a steampunk feel to it. “Miss Nyberg and I” is a tale of an unusual biological life form. I enjoyed this story immensely and the description of the creature and its habits. “Brown seemed to have a personal relationship with each of the plants in your flat and on the balcony. He made his rounds every day, patting stems and leaves, sometimes just sitting still among the roots.”
“Reindeer Mountain” the story that introduced me to Karin Tidbeck’s writing is in this collection. This story is beautifully written. It weaves together the story of two sisters, their family and the Vittra. According to Wikipedia the Vittra are from Northern Sweden and are a nature spirit, a type of mythological creature very common in Scandinavian mythology.
I was talking with a friend this morning about the challenges of writing a good short story. The characters have to engage you instantly. The story doesn’t have the space of a novel to unfold, so it has to draw the reader in immediately. The first sentence is very important in a short story. Some of these stories are very short, three or four pages, but the number of pages are not important. The story is and Karin Tidbeck does all of these things well.
I highly recommend Karin Tidbeck’s collection of stories that is Jagannath to anyone who is interested in unusual and thought-provoking literature. You will not be disappointed.