Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, by Seanan McGuire

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(Horror) Jenna has lived in New York City ever since she died forty years ago. Now something is happening to New York City’s ghosts, and she’s determined to find out what and stop it—if it doesn’t find her first. (38,641 words; Time: 2h:08m)

Rating: ★★★★★ Gripping and emotional

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"," by (edited by Lee Harris), published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: Jenna overcomes her fears, solves the mystery, brings Teresa to justice, and earns the right to be reunited with her sister and move on to the next life. The two plot threads (the mystery and Jenna's moving on) interlock neatly, and it doesn't matter that we can see it coming miles away.

The story repeatedly tells us that Jenna has spent her life (and half-life) running away from problems. Even her strategy to escape the mirror is initially to try to run, but from the point when she agreed to accompany Brenda back to Mill Hollow, she made a big change, and when the chance presents itself, she grabs it. By launching herself toward the old man rather than away, she escapes her prison entirely through her own initiative. If you think about it, she's been going nowhere for forty years in a different sort of prison, and this symbolizes her escape from that one too.

The story does a nice job of explaining the rules for ghosts without ever resorting to an infodump, and it follows those rules faithfully. We knew from the very beginning that the first person to behold a ghost trapped in a mirror would die from it, so Jenna's escape was properly set up from the very beginning of the story.

There's a good bit of tension from various sources, including a lingering suspicion that Brenda might somehow be behind all of this after all. Once the story gets going, you don't want to put it down.

Jenna is a very nice person who really, really wants to do the right thing. When she meets Patty again at the end, even though we're sure it's going to happen, it's intensely emotional.

Con: It's not clear why anyone believes there's any enforcement of this idea that a ghost must earn his/her way to the next life. From the text, lots of ghosts simply grant extra youth to a handful of friends and family and immediately move to the next world. There's no convincing explanation for why Jenna didn't do that herself.

Jenna is the only character who's really fleshed out. This leaves us indifferent when Brenda turns Teresa and herself into corn stalks. (And why does she need to do that?)

The story takes a while to get started. We are 25% of the way into it before we learn that ghosts are starting to go missing.

Other Reviews: Search Web, GoodReads.com
Seanan McGuire Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB

2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I thought this one was great! I loved the amount of time she spends building up the rules of the world and it pays off nicely in the end.

  2. Yes - I thought this story was great too.
    I agree with the rating and the comment "Gripping and Emotional"
    Very well done.

    The way I read it, Jenna felt she had to earn her right to move on, on principle.

    As for going "into the corn", I think if you read Page 103 again, you'd find the implied explanation. They were both corn witches, and it was a way of ending it, without fully ending it. I think Brenda couldn't stop her daughter any other way. That's page 103 of a paper copy.

    I know it is described as "horror" but it is only horror in that it is a ghost story. It is not creepy or a real horror story in its entirety. It read more like urban fantasy with a ghost as the main character.

    It is definitely going on my Hugo ballot.