The Devil You Know Paperback – 30 Jul 2005
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About the Author
Poppy Z. Brite is the author of seven novels, three collections of short stories, and much miscellanea. Known for her horror fiction, at present she is working on a series of novels and short stories set in the New Orleans restaurant world. Her novel Liquor was recently published to general critical acclaim, and her followup novel, Prime, will be released in 2005. She lives in New Orleans with her husband Chris, a chef.
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And as for the stories...
Dispatches from Tanganyika: A Foreword--Reminds me of the forward to Neil Gaiman's "Smoke And Mirrors." Here you will find brief notes Poppy has written on many of her stories, as well as an...explaination for her new (remarkable) writing style.
The Devil You Know--Cute. This story is nowhere near as "horrific" as many of her earlier short stories. Instead, it wonderfully reflects the front cover's "quirkiness."
O Death, Where Is Thy Spatula?--Reintroducing Dr. Brite, coroner of New Orleans and Poppy's alter-ego. (You may remember Dr. Brite from "In Vermis Veritas" in her previous short story collection.)
Lantern Marsh--Very sweet, and vaguely Ray Bradbury-esque. An odd story of childhood and change. Not scary at all.
Nothing Of Him That Doth Fade--This is the only story that really left me cold. It's definately not one of her best--Brite admits as much in the forward.
The Ocean--A dark story of Orpheus in modern times. Poppy's kind of, um, *intense* about people who think that this is a vampire story. Because it's not.
Marisol--More fun and games with Dr. Brite in the kitchen of New Orleans. This story gives a strong message out to all us reviewers out there...be careful what you say!
Poivre--Not really fiction at all. This is more of an anecdote about an incident that happened at one of the author's favorite restaurants. Very cute, really.
Pansu--Hysterical. Just very, very funny. Spoofs "The Exorcist." When I first heard descriptions of this story ("An ancient demon from the East seeks the pleasures of the flesh...") I thought that this would be a serious story. It's really definately NOT.
Burn, Baby, Burn--I forget what this story was based on, but it was good. Very "Firestarter."
System Freeze--Written in the same world as "The Matrix." It's okay. Not being a big fan of the movie, I'm not one to judge.
Bayou de la Mère--We get to see Rickey and G-Man (of "The Value of X" fame) on vacation in this short piece. G-Man is still trying to reconcile Catholisism and his sexuality, making this a very poignant piece.
The Heart of New Orleans--Probably one of the BEST things Poppy has ever written, and the last Dr. Brite story in here. This story is humerous and sad and really, really shows the true heart of New Orleans. Anne Rice, eat your heart out.
A Season in Heck--A little taste of what's to come, methinks. This story takes place at Rickey and G-Man's restaurant, Liquor. However, Our Couple is not the focus of this story. No, this tale concentrates on Paul, a young line chef in the restaurant, and who has a *terrible* crush on G-Man. Bad boy!
All in all, this is an A+ collection from one of my personal favorite authors. Her new, sparser, more honest voice makes all of these stories seem a little more realistic than her earlier volumes--not in the sense of the supernatural, but in the sense of human behavior. Poppy remains one of the few authors who can take me from laughter to tears and back again in ten pages, and this collection is proof of that.
Several of the tales feature Poppy's alter ego, Coroner Dr. Brite such as the black humor tale "Marisol" about a restaurant critic who writes an unflattering review of a restaurant and then promptly disappears as the chef introduces his newest dish. The "Ocean" brazenly shows the high cost of fame in a story about a dysfunctional, drug addicted rock band, being fed upon by their fans.
"System Freeze" seems a bit out of place with the other stories in the book, being as much a Sci-fi story as anything else. After a fatal fall from a mountain during a climb, a woman finds she's been given a second chance at life by the mysterious Agent Fine, as long as she completes the new AI program that she is working on. The story is supposed to be a Matrix-esque type tale and is short but effective
"Burn Baby Burn" will have people thinking of Stephen King's "Firestarter" with its tragic tale of pyrokinetic Liz Sherman (of Hellboy fame) and the destruction she causes to friends and family...not to mention her entire neighborhood when her powers go out of control. Liz finds her only place of comfort and safety is at the governments Bureau of Paranormal Research---with the other freaks.
My favorite story was "Lantern Marsh" as it evoked the feelings of youth when our own little worlds and suburbs were filled with mystery and enchantment. We firmly believed that the big old house down on the corner was home to a mad scientist. Set again in the Deep South, three young friends frequent a local swamp where odd lights are seen to float and dance about. Noel especially us drawn to the area over and over, even after he's warned to stay out by the man who owns part of the land it rests on. Years later, Noel returns home from college to find that Mr. Prudhomme now owns all of the land and plans to fill in the swamp for development. Noel knows he'll have to do something drastic to save the swamp, and whatever it is that lives there.
This diverse collection of short tales shows Poppy's development and comfort with various forms and settings as well as her enormous skill as a storyteller. A must have for her fans and a great place to start for new Brite readers!
Reviewed by Tim Janson
"Dispatches From Tanganyika" is a delightful foreward by Brite, in which she discusses her move away from horror and how each story came to be written.
"The Devil You Know" is an interesting, slightly creepy/comic appetizer which features briefly a charcter from "Exquisite Corpse."
"O Death, Where Is Thy Spatula?" reintroduces the character of Dr. Brite, Poppy's alter-ego first seen in her previous collection, "Are You Loathsome Tonight?" A great fun read.
"Lantern Marsh" is an old style Brite tale, much more on the supernatural side than the others.
"Nothing of Him That Doth Fade" is simply one of the saddest, most depressing things that Brite has ever written. It can also be seen as a final farewell to the angsty gay characters that she made her name on in her early work.
"The Ocean" is, as Poppy herself says, her last story about rock stars. Quite disturbing it is too, and no, it's not about vampires.
"Marisol" is another great Dr. Brite story, and also a love letter to Poppy's favorite restaurant.
"Poivre" is a true restaurant story by Poppy, very light and humorous.
"Pansu" is an over the top demonic possession tale, and you can tell Brite had a good time writing it.
"Burn, Baby, Burn" contains probably the most interesting female character Poppy has written about to date, even though the character is not of her creation. A troubled girl who starts fires with her mind.
"System Freeze" is an eerie story set in the world of the movie "The Matrix."
"Bayou de la Mere," which stars "The Value of X" characters Rickey and G-man, and "The Heart of New Orleans," which stars Dr. Brite, compete to be the best pieces of fiction that Poppy Z. Brite has ever written. Together they are so honest, real, and beautiful. Well done.
"A Season in Heck" is the novella that concludes the collection, and it deals with Paul, a young gay cook who works for Rickey and G-man. Also incredibly honest about New Orleans and its people.
To conclude, "The Devil You Know" contains some of Poppy Z. Brite's most original, honest work to date. She is my favorite author, and I have no doubt that she will continue to grow into exciting new directions.