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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hellboy. Oddest Jobs. Christopher Golden.(Editor). Dark Horse Books. (2008)

This is a collection of short stories by a wide variety of authors featuring Hellboy, the stories are uniformly excellent with a couple that stand out. Setting the scene and the standard for the remainder is "Jiving with Shadows and Dragons and Long, Black Trains" by Joe R. Lansdale. Towns in Arizona are being visited by a long black train and all the inhabitants are swept up by black dragons. Hellboy and the Reverend Jim Jeff investigate and find that frustration and obsession are powerful forces. The action is clever and forceful, the sliding viewpoints give the story depth and flavour, it packs a mighty punch.
"In Cupboards and Bookshelves" by Gary A. Braunbeck, Hellboy is asked to take on a job which involve harsh choices. It is very far from the usual Hellboy stories while capturing something essential about who Hellboy is. It is written with care and skill and leaves sad echos with the reader. "Second Honeymoon" by John Skipp & Cody Goodfellow is the closest in spirit and action to the Hellboy stories in the comics. A eco terrorist group decide to save Earth from humanity by releasing some of the Titans from Greek mythology. The action is both absurd and with a genuine emotional depth.
The two stories that stood out, even from such an excellent selection are "Repossession" by Barbara Hambly and "A Room of One's Own" by China Mieville. "Repossession" develops in a most unexpected fashion from a classic Hellboy opening. As the Aswan dam in Egypt is being built, lots of spirits are being disturbed and Hellboy is on the trail of a man who trades in such things. The story moves seamlessly to become about oppression and possession, how they intersect and how they infect the living. "A Room of One's Own" is a wonderfully playful story about the entirely unexpected dangers of interior decorating. From the title onward it plays with references to other stories that are cunning woven into a very clever knot as well as carrying off a more serious intent. Overall a great collection, a pleasure to read.

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