Review: Tracie McBride’s Ghosts Can Bleed

Ghosts Can Bleed is an eclectic collection of short stories and poems, in fantasy, horror and sf genres, by New Zealander, Tracie McBride. The titular story is about a chap called Maurice, who believes he is dead and is trying to convince his wife of this fact but all is not as it seems. The opening story, Last Chance to See is about a recently deceased woman that has been brought back temporarily through an avatar programme so that she can say good-bye to her loved ones, but instead is exposed to

what actually goes on at a wake . . . gossip, back-biting and the skin-deep sympathy of people who are just there to fight over your belongings. My favourite story is about a guy who is helping the men of his local community vent their violent tendencies by exploiting his genetic mutation of rapid healing and the ability to transmute the pain a normal person would suffer. A nosy barmaid learns the hard way to keep her nose out of other people’s business.

The stories are often macabre and the humour is as black as it comes, but each one reveals a different aspect of the human condition and each plays on the idea of mortality and how different people respond to it. Yet, each story is unique and has a different feel to it. If I was to compare it to anything, it would be to the TV series, The Outer Limit.

The writing is solid and expressive and the descriptions never feel forced or overworked. It was difficult to see what the connection was between all the different stories and poems until I had finished the book and had time to reflect on its themes for a few days. This isn’t my normal kind of reading material and yet I never felt bored or tempted to skip a story. This is good reading for when you’re on the bus or train, or sitting on a bench waiting for one to arrive or for your turn with the shrink.  (3/5)

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