Kelly Link writes stories like no other. Every one is different, but they’re all linked by a curious magic and a sense that you have no idea where you’re going, but it’s going to be worth the ride.
OK, that’s the short version. I’ve had time to digest, and so here’s a bit more.
I suspect that Ms. Link is a pantser, like, say, Stephen King. (Edit: She evidently is not.) She invents fully-formed characters, then sets them loose in settings as varied as the hollers of the southern US, a sleeper ship on its way to Proxima Centauri, a hotel hosting two conventions, and an island wedding. Then she sits back—in a manner of speaking—to see what happens.
The opening story, “The Summer People”, was a beautiful thing. I’ve been working my way through the last season of Justified, and I kept imagining actors from the show in the roles of the two girls in the story.
“Secret Identity” is a long email written by a young woman (almost sixteen!) who almost got involved with a man nearly twenty years her senior. It takes place at a hotel hosting two conventions, one for dentists, the others for superheroes.
“The Lesson” felt tragic and beautiful and creepy.
“Two Houses”, a collection of ghost stories on board a spaceship, was every bit as spooky and spacesuit‑y as you think, and it had echoes, as you’d expect, of Ray Bradbury.
Every story in this collection is worth your time. Every story dumps you into a situation that you don’t understand, that you can’t yet understand, and then feeds you the information you need to make sense of what’s happening. (It took me quite some time, for example, to decide if the superhero convention was a cosplay convention, or a gathering of honest-to-God superbeings. I’ll let you read it so you can decide for yourself.) Every story is a layered treasure, unfolding slowly or quickly, till the gem at its heart is revealed.