This review was first published by Booklist on June 1, 2019.
**STARRED REVIEW** In her introduction, Hurley (The Light Brigade, 2019) admits that short stories aren’t her typical fare: her heart belongs to novels. And yet, she has produced one of the best story collections of the past few years. Hurley imagines brutal worlds, and her work is typically violent and vulgar. But as these stories make clear, her visions offer much more than shock value: these tales are emotionally powerful, lyrical, occasionally hopeful, and flirt with the profound. She creates worlds and characters as full and fascinating in a dozen pages as any she offers in her longer works. They throw into stark relief the core themes of her larger body of work: physical and linguistic expressions of gender or bodies fraught with illness (“Elephants and Corpses,” “Tumbledown,” “The Plague Givers”); war and the cycle of violence (“The Red Secretary,” “Garda,” “The War of Heroes”); storytelling as a medium for both social control and individual freedom (“Sinners on Solid Ground,” “The Corpse Archives”). What makes Hurley’s stories unique is her focus on what comes after: after war, after plague, after the collapse of civilization. These are stories that pack a punch. Highly recommended for existing fans and as an introduction for new readers.