Zen Cho’s Spirits Abroad

51zJ8CsQKPS._SX342_SY445_QL70_ML2_Zen Cho’s Spirits Abroad is a nice little collection of the author’s work. This expanded edition of an earlier collection brings together many interesting tales long and short. The supernatural is rife in the stories, sometimes treated as something of a fact of life. It is a mark in favor of Cho’s writing that something extremely common in western fantasy and horror can feel like an unfortunate and unusual problem. 

One do the stories from the original version, “Seven Star Drum,” details a young man named Boris, or rather the backstory of a young banker with that name. He was a boy born with the ability to see the supernatural, and parents who didn’t believe in such things.

The question of how one processes their senses, as well as the best way to live their life, are dealt with in the pages of this very short story. It is told by an individual named Coco, yet clearly is not their story. Still, even then the telling is quick and entertaining, easy to read while provoking a little thought. This is a relatively comic piece, with elements of satire in its treatments of disbelief and banking in the same pages as explanations of the supernatural.

“Odette” on the other hand, is a quite recent tale and one also dealing with seeing spirits. The titular character’s uncle dies, and yet she finds he is still around. As a result the woman slowly yet steadily looks over the ways the man affected her life, his abuses both subtle and direct. His way of gaslighting and hiding his behavior from the public and friends. She talks of him throwing items, refusing to let her date or work or learn to drive, while attempting to push the same ahead. 

This one deals directly with abuse and the justifications made for that abuse. It is true that there is a possible murder in this story, but that is not remotely the murder which is believed. The evils of following a religion while harming people is highlighted by the way the uncle continually refers to himself as a Christian.

The cover art is new to this edition of the collection, a beautiful image by Wesley Ashbrook with an assortment of little delightful details. While a fearful eastern spiritual image is depicted in bright colors, the tongue ending in a transparent little hand grabbing a piece of fruit feels appropriately playful. 

Spirits Abroad is a very nice collection of works from a successful author. With stories dating from 2010 up to 2020, a reader can see a span of mood and style for the author. Recommended to fans of Zen Cho’s longer works, as well as those who seek to look at his writings for the first time.

(Small Beer Press, 2021)

Cat Eldridge

I'm the publisher of Green Man Review. My current audiobooks are Arkady Martine's A Desolation Called Peace, Nicole Galland’s Master of The Revels, and Walter Jon William’s Deep State. I’m reading Neal Asher’s latest Polity novel, Jack Four. My music listening as always leans heavily towards trad Celtic and Nordic music.

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