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Review: From the Neck Up - Aliya Whiteley

Genre: Short stories, Horror, Speculative Fiction Published: Titan Books, September 14th 2021

My rating: 4/5 stars

Aliya Whiteley explores our the horrors (large and small) of our modern day lives through 16 mesmerizing tales that warp the ordinary into the uncanny. Combining elements of science fiction, speculative surrealism and horror, the author covers a variety of themes about the world we live in; ranging from environmental apocalypse to the nature of the bodies we inhabit. Varying in length and topic, all stories share the unifying atmosphere of unnerving strangeness, combined with hypnotic beauty that is accentuated by the authors lyrical writing. I personally had a wonderful time with this collection: if you know me, this is the exact brand of horror that I love. Combined with Whiteley’s creativity and talent for painting a picture with her words, this was a match made in heaven. In fact, it made me even more enthusiastic to read her full length novels that are still on my TBR (particularly Skyward Inn and Greensmith), as I tend to personally prefer those over short stories. For me, the biggest challenge when reviewing collections or anthologies is that you will inevitably like some parts of it more than others. The same rang true for From the Neck Up for me personally. Some stories were so engaging and fascinating that I was left wishing for a full length novel on the topic, only to realize that the story already encapsulated everything it needed to perfectly. That’s the art of a good short story to me: being able to condense an idea down to its core without losing substance. My personal favourites were “Many-Eyed Monsters”, “Into Glass” and “Reflection, Refraction and Dispersion”. A few stories however, had me wishing for more in a different way: leaving me feeling like there was an original idea, yet little more to it explored. Overall, this collection delivered a coherent and fascinating experience, that will at times get under your skin and linger there. Perfect for fans of Kirsty Logans Things We Say in the Dark, Samanta Schweblins Mouthful of Birds or the works of Jeff VanderMeer. From the Neck Up is available from September 14th in online and physical stores. Many thanks to the publisher Titan Books and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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