I’ve only recently become acquainted with Lynda E. Rucker’s excellent nonfiction column “Blood Pudding” in the pages of Black Static, and while familiar with her debut collection, The Moon Will Look Strange, I came to it a bit like the shadowy figure in one of the book’s finer offerings, “The Chance Walker,” a character who loops the neighborhood waiting for the appropriate moment to infect the protagonist’s world. There is a right time for everything, and I am thankful to whatever force (well, okay, social media) that pushed me beyond the moon-haunted cover and into these eleven strange stories. Every tale was a joy to read, though I did of course have favorites: “The Burned House,” “No More A-Rovin,” “Ash-Mouth,” as well as the above-mentioned tale, are modern classics that beg revisiting. As Steve Rasnic Tem so eloquently states in his introduction: “Rucker’s great talent is that she is able to carefully build a perceptive portrayal of the real world and in the process of that exploration find that edge where the everyday dissolves and the numinous begins.” Many of Rucker’s protagonists dwell on the past, and this past oftentimes creeps into and becomes inextricably linked with the present. “The Burned House” is a perfect example, where an elderly resident lingers before a neighborhood house recalling memories from her past, and the further she investigates (literally and in memory) the more “attached” she becomes not only to the house but its scarred “residents.” In the “Author’s Note,” Rucker admits that her own past does not fade with age, but is ever-present, and this is one of the engines which power her tales. Place is also an important driver, and the collection is filled with a delectable mix of locales. Whether this be the west of Ireland (as in “No More A-Rovin”), the North Georgia mountains (as in “These Things We Have Always Known”), or the urban labyrinth of the Czech Republic (as in “The Chance Walker”), we are met with tales rich in place-detail, often to an overwhelming degree. It might be appropriate to end by quoting from this latter tale, speaking as it does to the stories’ contagious staying power: “That something was always waiting in Cold Rest we all knew….When you dreamed it you never could remember the following day, just a kind of uneasiness like something had crawled into your brain in the night and left the faintest of markings behind, a gloss of breath where your own thoughts used to lie.”
The Moon Will Look Strange is published by Karoshi Books and can be purchased from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Also, be sure to visit Lynda E. Rucker’s blog as well as her column in Black Static.