The Ones That Got Away: Stories that will keep you turning the page

Book Review – The Ones That Got Away by Stephen Graham Jones

the-ones-that-got-away-stephen-graham-jones_book-review

I’ve been meaning to dig into Stephen Graham Jones’ The Ones That Got Away since it was released in 2010 and nominated for the Bram Stoker Award Nominee for best short story collection of the year. As things sometimes turn out, I hadn’t been able to get my hands on a copy until very recently.

The thirteen stories included in The Ones That Got Away are undisputed proof of Jones’ vast literary versatility and capabilities. The stories often go outside of what’s considered horror genre boundaries but always remain quite dark. There are no fillers in this collection, although I did not love everything.

Unlike a lot of horror fiction, I rarely knew what was coming or could anticipate the ending. Jones uses a lot of misdirection that leads to speculation, which—in some of the stories—forces you to come to your own conclusion by adding up information given along the way.

Unfortunately, the end result of this wasn’t always good. Sometimes, a story didn’t fully make sense to me. Even after some re-reading, I wasn’t entirely sure what happened at the end, some conclusions being excessively vague. Still, I enjoyed reading every one of them. Even though we have the familiar characters in some of them: a vampire, werewolf, zombies and  ghosts, what makes the stories in The Ones That Got Away excellent is Jones’ ability to juxtapose the ordinary world with these supernatural elements, while keeping things entirely plausible.

I indeed stop trying, finally. But the body breathes whether you want it to or not. The heart keeps beating. Perhaps because it knows more than you do—knows that, past this experience, a whole new life will open up, and whatever infirmities persist, they can be dealt with one by one.”
– from ‘Captain’s Lament’

To mention every story would make this review too long, but I do want to refer to my favorites.

In ‘Father, Son, Holy Rabbit’ a father and son are lost in the snowy wilderness, and the father must make a very difficult decision to save his son. It’s easy to see why LitReactor named it one of the best short stories ever written. It was the perfect start for the collection and blew me away completely.

‘So Perfect’ is heart-wrenching and brutal and I loved it! I didn’t know if I was reading a news report or fiction. The characters are a dreadfully accurate portrayal of two adolescent girls who will go quite far to get thin and to remain the popular queens that they believe themselves to be.

Zombies meet the Old West in ‘Lonegan’s Luck’ where a snake-oil salesman devises his own formula to turn townsfolk into zombies. ‘Captain’s Lament’ is a lovely, straight-up horror story that puts a very smart twist on a familiar urban legend.

In the amazing ‘Raphael’ a group of reject kids accidentally end up playing with some very dark forces and it ends up changing all of them forever.

This is dark, speculative fiction that will keep you turning the page. Many of the stories within The Ones That Got Away will stay with you long after you have closed the covers. This collection shows that Jones knows where fear lives in us, and he’s not afraid to apply pressure there.

 

The Ones That Got Away
by Stephen Graham Jones
Prime Books Publishing

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Great review here man, your passion and love for this genre is evident in many forms. Thank you for sharing your favourites list; it helps a newcomer to the genre dip their foot-in to see if they might it enjoy it too. ‘Father, Son, Holy Rabbit’ sounds like a story I would enjoy. I’m going to check it out. Thank you.

    • eduardo says:

      Thanks, Jordan, ‘Father, Son, Holy Rabbit’ is brutal. Check it out, it’s short so it won’t take more than an hour – if not less to read, and it will give you a good idea of what both Jones and horror fiction are all about, it’s one of those rare perfect short stories that leave you breathless at the end.
      As you say, I love all this stuff and I appreciate very much your words, I hope I can get more to try some of it. Thank YOU!

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