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Book Review: The Grand Tour by E. Catherine Tobler

Title: The Grand Tour

Author: E. Catherine Tobler

Publisher: Apex Book Company

Publication Date: June 15, 2020

Genres: Urban Fantasy

Shelves: Female-authored

A literary circus tour of the strange and the unusual, with destinations as frightening as they are fascinating, The Grand Tour offers a ticket to . . . elsewhere.

E. Catherine Tobler has a mythical, surreal sort of style here that reminds me of equal parts Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, and Richard Matheson. The stories are deceptively folksy, dreamlike in the telling. Some dip into the realm of nightmares while others immerse themselves in it. There are those that wear their weirdness proudly on their sleeve, putting it front and center, and others that hold it in reserve, waiting for the right moment to pull back the curtain.

For instance, Vanishing Act takes place in 1940s’ Roswell, New Mexico, which should give you a clue as to what it entails . . . but it’s not the way in which you expect. There is a girl from beyond, riding the rails yet never getting any closer to home, but it’s the journey that holds the magic here.

Artificial Nocturne was a story of ‘freaks’ both born and made. It’s a story that wanders from strange to beautiful, to horrifying, and back to strange. The next story, We, As One, Trailing Embers, is the first true horror story in the collection, a story of conjoined twins with a dark hunger that has echoes of Clive Barker beneath it.

Ebb Stung by the Flow was the most visually and imaginatively stunning story in the collection, one that seized me from the opening paragraph. It’s a story I had to read twice, just to appreciate the language and the imagery, and I swear it was a different story each time. Every Season then switches things up again, telling a more contemporary tale with erotic flavors and a wonderful scene exploring excess and the haunting, wonderful question of “Who decides normal?”

Some stories are about the characters, others about themes or plots, but what lingered with me following The Grand Tour was the telling. These are stories to be savored, read slowly, with care, and with a sense of wonder.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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