Daniel José Older
Crossed Genres (July 2012)
I didn’t win this book as a LibraryThing Early Reviewer. I won it as a backer of Crossed Genres’ Long Hidden kickstarter!
I love winning free books, especially books as good as Salsa Nocturna.
Perhaps, Ms. Bear, perhaps.
Salsa Nocturna is a collection of supernatural noir short stories written by Daniel José Older. Characters and locations overlap (they all take place in New York City), but you can read any of them and feel grounded in each tale’s part of the circle. But read them all and more things click into place.
I’m not sure where to start with how great these stories are. Older’s writing is gorgeous and true. In the best stories in this collection, Older’s words have a magical cadence to them.
Older also has a way with characterization. I ended up loving everyone he introduced me to, especially Carlos, the half-dead Puerto Rican soulcatcher who’s the focus of several of the stories. And Gordo, a musician who can see the dead. Oh, and Cici, an old woman with many stories. Yeah, I could go on, but you should meet all these people. They’re awesome. (Okay, I didn’t love the bad guys, but they felt real to me.)
He even made me love New York City a bit, which is a pretty big accomplishment. I’ve never been a fan.
My favorite stories in the mix are many. “Tenderfoot” introduces us to Carlos and has such a joyful ending I cheered when it came. “Skin Like Porcelain Death” might be the scariest of the bunch but I find dolls as creepy as clowns, so that’s where I’m coming from. “Protected Entity” is creepy, too, and dark, as Carlos goes about tracking down a serial killer who’s murdering children of color in what’s now a white part of Harlem. “Red Feather and Bone” is brilliant. I’m in the midst of reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which added another layer of resonance when I read Older’s story for a second time. “Forgive Me My Tangents” is adorable, bringing together two of these wonderful characters and creating possibilities for them.
I’ll admit, there are some stories in Salsa Nocturna that I didn’t like as well. “Magdelena,” for example, felt a little rushed (although I love Krys), and “Love Is A Fucking River” left me on the shore, although I love the cab driver. Your mileage may vary, of course.
And then we have that cover: a beautiful image that hints at the magic inside. Saddi Khali created it. Here, take another look.
So pretty, inside and out. Read this!