review of Sarah Gray's short story collection Urban Creatures

The first story ("Killing Rachel") is the weakest. It's a very on-the-nose allegory about how some of the afflictions we suffer are actually for our own good. Not one of my favorite themes. Not the sort of eerie, unsettling mood I was hoping for based on the cover art, either.

Fortunately, the rest of the book delivers. "Crowning Glory" reads like the tale of a serial killer, but the character doesn't murder her victims - she cuts off their hair. In "Silences", a girl struggles with the divide between her beloved but strangely isolated father and her delightful but estranged extended family. "Immersion" shows the world through the eyes of a suicidal patient trying to escape a tragic memory. "A Love Story" is a story of emotional manipulation, with a perfectly twisted final sentence.

I think the best story is "Half Life", which depicts the effects of a slowly-progressing fatal disease on a young woman's life.

Everything about life had changed. Her assumptions about her future had been destroyed. Gone was the "positive illusion" of a predictable and controllable world. She'd never get old and her parents would outlive her. Nothing made sense. People around her looked alien, were alien. Their experience no longer coincided with hers and she felt outside of everyday pleasures, ordinary worries and trivial concerns.

Her emotional journey continues after death, when she attempts to reconnect with her family as a ghost.