Black Juice by Margo Lanagan.
Black Juice is a collection of ten short stories. They are fascinating, intense, vivid glimpses into worlds that are similar to our own. The term for this writing is speculative fiction: a term that encompasses science fiction and fantasy, alternate worlds and alternate history. And a term that doesn't have the negative connotations that SF and fantasy have to the general public.
Black Juice reminded me of The Twilight Zone episodes. It takes you a minute to figure out what's going on; at some point, there's an aha moment as the puzzle pieces fall together; there's a message; and there's darkness. But its not the darkness of vampires or werewolves; no, its the darkness that is in our lives. The agonizing loss of a sister in Singing My Sister Down. The lady who abandons all to run away with the gypsies, told from the perspective of someone who cannot fathom why someone would do that, in My Lord's Man. And the struggles of an orphan, excluded from society, in Yowlinin (which of all of these, is the one which would make an excellent movie.)
Lanagan has crafted a memorable book; her talent is shown in the fact that days later, I am still thinking about the stories. The talent is also shown in the wholeness of the ten worlds the author created. You feel the heat of the tar, the dampness of a city.
This is a must read book. It is not an easy read; each short story demands your full attention as you try to figure out what is going on. It could be overwhelming and frustrating to have to decode story after story in one sitting; this is a collection of short stories to spread out over several days. Read one, then put the book down.