Caution: contains small parts by Kirstyn McDermott – review

This review forms part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers 2013 Reading Challenge. All my 2013 AWWC reviews can be found here.

Caution: contains small parts

Caution: contains small parts by Kirstyn McDermott is the latest in the Twelve Planets series released by  Twelfth Planet Press. It includes the following stories:

  • What Amanda Wants
  • Horn
  • Caution: Contains Small Parts
  • The Home for Broken Dolls

Kirstyn McDermott is an author who I can rely on to produce excellent quality, lovely prose that creeps me the hell out. I’ve liked her earlier work (see my previous reviews of Madigan Mine and Perfections if you don’t believe me) so it will be no shock to anyone to find out that I really enjoyed Caution: contains small parts as well.

All four stories are in a contemporary setting (as is most of McDermott’s work that I’ve read). The horror elements are subtle – no splatter-punk here. These are generally speaking not high action pieces, rather they twist horror tropes to find interesting ways of exploring characters  and merging together the grotesque and the beautiful.

I’m always concerned with describing short story collections/anthologies – often the pieces are too short to describe without giving spoilers. Let me give you the blurb from the book itself.

Caution: Contains Small Parts is an intimate, unsettling collection from award-winning author Kirstyn McDermott.

A creepy wooden dog that refuses to play dead.
A gifted crisis counsellor and the mysterious, melancholy girl she cannot seem to reach.
A once-successful fantasy author whose life has become a horror story – now with added unicorns.
An isolated woman whose obsession with sex dolls takes a harrowing, unexpected turn.

Four stories that will haunt you long after their final pages are turned.

My favourite of the four stories was the titular story Caution: contains small parts. Without giving anything away, it resonated the most with me. I felt closer to the protagonist than in any of the other stories, and found the ending particularly moving.

The first story, What Amanda Wants, is a very strong piece. A strongly realised protagonist and a mystery that felt solid and resolved satisfactorily (with trademark McDermott creepiness).

Horn contained some very visceral writing and again a strongly realised protagonist. This is the story with added unicorns, in case you were wondering.

The final story (more like novella length) is The Home for Broken Dolls. This was probably my least favourite of the book. Don’t get me wrong: it is superbly written, with some well drawn characters and a good arc for the protagonist. However, I found it more intellectually interesting than emotionally engaging. This is probably one of those this-says-more-about-me-than-it-does-about-the-story moments though.

Overall this is another excellent addition to the Twelve Planets series, and a fantastic addition to  McDermott’s body of work. Highly recommended.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

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This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.


Author: mark

A writer of speculative fiction and all round good egg. Well, mostly good. OK, sometimes good.

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