Halloween Special! I recently read Kathe Koja’s Six Stories collection, all of which were spooky or unnatural in one sense or another, and I thought that these stories would be a perfect match for the week leading up to Halloween. Then I got sick, and healthy, and sick. So: post-Halloween Special!
This story is dark and horrifying, both in a social sense of the society it depicts, and the slow simmer of underlying supernatural darkness. Pearlie is a young lad who spends days scamming drinks and trinkets off the more well-to-do in taverns and nights as a prostitute. But one night he encounters Edmund, an impresario, a gentlemen running a theater company seeking actors – and agrees to play the role of the Dark Queen in his company’s play, La Reine D’Enfer: The Queen of Hell.
Koja does an amazing job at building the atmosphere of the setting’s time and place – London or any such bustling British city in old Victorian times. The characters feel spot on, and varied, a convincing jumble of temperaments, and speaking in convincing accesnts and dialect, with evocative idioms and slang.
There is also a lot going on at the thematic level as well. What struck me most, was how Pearlie transitions between different forms of acting, from scamming and whoring to theater. From minor manipulations to striding on the theater stage manipulating the emotions of the entire audience, and to conversing with spirits, acting and power over reality are tied.
Obligatory Kindle Note: Read this on a kindle!