Unwelcome Bodies the debut short fiction collection from Jennifer Pelland.
Pain. Pleasure. The sensation of touch...we feel everything through our skin, that delicate membrane separating "I" from "other," protecting the very essence of self.
Until it breaks. Or changes. Or burns.
What would you do if you were the one called on to save humanity, and the price you had to pay was becoming something other than human? Or if healing your body meant losing the only person you've ever loved?
Wander through worlds where a woman craves even a poisonous touch...a man's deformities become a society's fashion...genetic regeneration keeps the fires of Hell away...and painted lovers risk everything to break the boundaries of their caste system down.
Separate your mind from your flesh and come in. Welcome...
From the back cover:
"Her already-glowing reputation may still be just a hint of promising light on the horizon of those who like their fantastic fiction smart, imaginative, and driven by the mysteries of the human spirit, but each new story as brilliant as 'Brushstrokes' and 'The Last Stand of the Elephant Man' brings her inevitable future even closer. Trust me on this: Jennifer Pelland's star has only just begun to rise."
- Adam-Troy Castro, Hugo, Nebula, and Stoker-nominated author of Emissaries from the Dead
"Pelland handles difficult topics with assured storytelling chops, bringing us to the brink of tears, fear, desire, and beyond. Worth your time AND money AND sincere attention."
– Steven Gould, Hugo and Nebula-nominated author of Jumper
The collection contains the following stories:
(Titles in bold are available to read online.)
"For the Plague Thereof Was Exceeding Great"
"Big Sister/Little Sister"
"Captive Girl" (2008 Nebula nominee)
"The Last Stand of the Elephant Man"
"Songs of Lament" (previously unpublished)
"Firebird" (previously unpublished)
"Brushstrokes" (previously unpublished)
Unwelcome Bodies was released on February 29, 2008.
- Wellesley Magazine, Winter 2009
Pelland dives fully and sincerely into the tales she tells, unafraid to pursue unusual or unlikely motivations. But the stories are not all grit and panic -- there is also a quiet attention to touch, light, and space. All of the elements at hand do add up to something in the end. Throughout the collection, it is clear that the author is equally comfortable writing both about places she knows and the places or scenarios that she can imagine. The worlds Pelland creates are always governed by a defined, consistent set of rules; they just aren't necessarily the rules you'd expect.
- Strange Horizons
Reviewing a collection of short stories is a balancing act. There's the temptation to analyse each story separately, but the mark of a successful collection is how well the stories work together. Unwelcome Bodies is aptly titled, with each story exploring a different aspect of the human condition: sex, death, the mind/body dichotomy, our personal futures and the future of humanity. The collection showcases Pelland's progress as a writer, and her increasing facility with the short story form. I'm eager to read future work as she refines her art and discovers more fascinating fears.
- Joseph Mallozzi (executive producer of Stargate Atlantis)
Pelland's storytelling is lean yet fluid, devoid of tangential narrative meanderings and overly-detailed descriptions yet fully accomplished in its ability to touch, impress, and, occasionally, gut-shank.
- The Fix
Unwelcome Bodies is an excellent read, featuring stories within stories and wildly creative futures with solidly preserved human souls.
- SF Bookswap
Jennifer Pelland is one twisted writer. [...] One of the things that Pelland often does best is to keep the language simple whenever possible. The story carries enough weirdness on its own without having to get into detail about this near future world. The hideousness is in the humans, not the technology.
- Calico Reaction
This is an easy collection to recommend to anyone who enjoys thought-provoking SF, and for people who liked to be creeped out by their horror.
Jennifer Pelland is a very good writer. She can evoke a setting, an environment, a mood in just a few sentences. And she does it so intensely that the reader really feels the fear of touching any potentially diseased subway riders; feels the thirst of a world without water; feels the aloneness that comes behind the metal mask ...[I]f you can take the gritty 'this is the way the world is going, and you're not going to like it' feel of many of her stories, you'll be rewarded with some memorable stories.