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Last Plane to Heaven
by Jay Lake
Tor, $16.99 TPB, 316 pp
Published: November 2015

Someone once mentioned in passing that I should read Jay Lake; that he was extraordinary.  But I hear that a lot and seldom do I find that my interpretation of extraordinary is in sync with another’s interpretation.  And then there’s Jay Lake…

This is a collection of his short stories; his last collection.  He knew he was dying when he put it together.  Jay died of colon cancer in 2014 and the world is truly poorer for his passing.  When it appeared on a list of review books, I remembered that recommendation and thought: it’s time.

I generally dissect each short story and try to give my readers a tidbit of each; and then I try to evaluate if the collection stands up to its marketing.  That is not possible for this collection. Aside from the immortal Ray Bradbury, I cannot recall a stronger voice than Jay Lake’s.  I started the title story with no expectations and ended that story in confusion:  what was the big deal?  I couldn’t see that incomplete ending had much to say to me.  I then plodded through the next and the next.  And then my steps grew lighter and faster through the middle and finally slowed towards the end, in dread of when the words would finally run out.

I cannot comment on each story; hell, I can’t even comment on just one.  Some of them just don’t bear a bald synopsis; each of them is amazing.  It’s more the entire experience that both humbles me and moves me to ecstasy.  I know I’m rambling but I just don’t know how to distill how I feel about this book.  I’m afraid I’ll be moved to purplish prose if I try any harder.  I know this book is never leaving my grasp; I know I’ll read it again.  It may not speak to everyone the same way and you might feel this review was deceptive; so you are warned.  It may leave you dazed or disappointed; I sincerely hope for the former for everyone.

Read Jay Lake so he’ll continue to be with us.  ~~ Catherine Book

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