By Kelly Link
Available now from (Penguin) Random House
GET IN TROUBLE: STORIES is a collection of nine stories by Kelly Link, who is perhaps best known for her short stories (beyond even her skills as an anthologist and small publisher). I'd read two of the stories: "The New Boyfriend" in MONSTROUS AFFECTIONS and "Secret Identity" in Geektastic. Neither were my favorite story in either anthology.
I feel like GET IN TROUBLE leans hard on the Kelly Link formula. Her mix of the ordinary and fantastic is nearly unmatched, but much of this collection feels like she's resting on her laurels. GET IN TROUBLE opens promisingly with "The Summer People," a sharply drawn tale that carefully breaks down both an Appalachian town and an aging estate full of fae. It hints at danger and dark fates while also focusing on the blooming friendship between two teen girls.
The second story, "I Can See Right Through You," killed all momentum to me. It is set through the point of view of the demon lover, an aging movie star who once played a vampire going to see the woman who played his love again. There's hints of good stuff in the story, but the conceit of calling him the demon lover through the whole story drove me nuts. Although the story has a pretty juicy payoff, it's not as good as an actual incubus showing up to make the repetitive epithet worth it.
My two favorite stories after "The Summer People" were the final two in the collection. "Two Houses" takes the classic plot of a bunch of people telling ghost stories to each other and takes it to a predictably meta but chilling place. I love a good creepy intelligent computer. "Light" is a story that takes place in a world where most people have a normal shadow, but some have no or two. It focuses on the main character Lindsey, recently divorced and a recovering alcoholic, and her gay brother who has moved back in with her. The setting of the story keeps revealing new strange details of this world (perhaps too much for one short story), but it goes down smooth and with no lingering unpleasantness.
I like Link's worth, but GET IN TROUBLE is not an essential collection. If you're a fan, go ahead and get this one from the library. Otherwise, stick to the first story (and maybe the last two).