BookPage Fiction Top Pick, February 2015
Kelly Link tends to inspire a range of comparisons to other authors—usually, some blend of Angela Carter and Haruki Murakami—but, in fact, nobody writes stories like hers. Link’s fantastical worlds feel utterly real, partly because they’re intensely matter-of-fact. Her characters are sassy, moody and cool, and they never, ever make any big deal out of the fact that there are monsters, aliens, vampires or ghosts hanging around, or that they might stumble into a pocket universe or some alternate dimension. Mostly they’re concerned with cute guys and flirting and drinks, plus occasionally needing to save the world.
If that sounds light, it’s not meant to. Link, who has written three previous short-story collections and co-edited several anthologies with her husband, Gavin J. Grant, is often hilarious, but her stories still break your heart. The best thing to compare her writing to might be “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” with its perfect combo of dark wit, sex and tragedy. Get in Trouble contains nine stories, which include maybe two happy endings, maybe zero, depending on how you look at them. She’s never been one to wrap things up in tidy fashion.
The tales here range from fairy tales to space opera. Sometimes you’re halfway through before you even know what kind of world you’re in, but that’s OK, because Link guides you so carefully that you’d follow her anywhere. There’s an amateur cyberstalker at a superhero convention who, naturally, gets more than she bargained for (“Secret Identity”). There’s a girl whose job as a caretaker of summer houses is not what it seems (“The Summer People”), a rich far-future playboy who falls for the wrong person (“Valley of the Girls”), a woman driven to distraction by her shadow (“Light”).
As different as these stories are, they all in some way play with expectations. There are surprises on every page. Nothing is what it seems; everything is much more. In short, Kelly Link is magic.