Review: That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote, by K.J. Bishop

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of corresponding with author K.J. Bishop and was fortunate enough to read the manuscript of her new anthology, That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote, prior to publication. She was kind enough to mention me in her acknowledgements, and I’m thrilled to finally be able to write this review and hopefully steer you to Amazon (it’s available in Kindle format in the US and UK, and soon in paperback) to immediately purchase it.

That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote
Because I care about you guys like that. Seriously, don’t miss out on this one. It’s genius.

It’s no secret how fond I am of the writing of K.J. Bishop, or of Kirsten herself, who is a pretty nifty human. It seems almost inadequate to dub her an author. She’s more like an artist of prose, but nothing so mundane or harmless as painting with letters. More like carving with an alphabet sword. There’s a quality about her writing that feels like wandering through a green garden overgrown with curious plants and bizarre structures:  Here’s a bush trimmed in the shape of a lion with the head of a goose. Here’s a stone well full of stars instead of water. And here, strangest of all, is a misty path that endlessly leads back onto itself like a Mobius strip, bringing back versions of the same you, all slightly changed and speaking a different language.

Yes, that’s exactly how it is.

Fans of Bishop’s The Etched City (nominated for the World Fantasy Award in 2004) will be excited to read more about Gwynn in his full, black-hearted glory in The Art of Dying, and a somewhat toothier version of him in She Mirrors, both stories touching on the past and future of one of the most interesting not-villains of Bishop’s worlds.

One of my favorite stories of the collection is a very short one titled Last Drink Bird Head.

“Last Drink Bird Head didn’t fit in at school. When the others were candles, she was lemons. When doors closed she was on the wrong side. She hated the flavour of milk and cellophane. When she jumped rope she was a merry-go-round horse with an orange face. She couldn’t sit down anywhere, not even on the toilet, without saying ‘Last Drink Bird Head’ three times. When it was her turn to feed the goldfish she fed them glitter and they died.”

It’s all a bit insane, isn’t it? Beautifully, dreadfully so. While some of the stories – like the delightful cyberpunk Beach Rubble, or the upside-down apocalyptic The Heart of a Mouse – are fully-realized tales, others are like snatches of nightmare or the conversations of a fever dream. Mother’s Curtains  is one such fragment, and packs a big punch for being so brief. There must be some kind of magic to that.

I believe I’ve begun to think of Bishop’s writing as a gleeful vacation from reading the way you’ve been taught you’re supposed to read. Rules here are about as necessary as pitchforks for soup. Here’s a temptation to take the analytical shades off and walk barefoot through alleyways and prisons, velvet-curtained brothels and the edges of black cliffs. Take the invitation, but watch your back when a citizen of her world passes by, because they’re all a little touched.

Website: K. J. Bishop



About Kirby

Kirby Crow worked as an entertainment editor and ghostwriter for several years before happily giving it up to bake brownies, read yaoi, play video games, and write her own novels. Whenever she isn't slaying Orcs or flying a battleship for the glory of the Amarr Empire, she can be found in the kitchen, her vegetable garden, or busy writing her next book. Kirby is a winner of the EPIC Award (Best Horror Novel) and the Rainbow Award (Best LGBT Novel). She is the author of the bestselling "Scarlet and the White Wolf" series of fantasy novels.
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6 Responses to Review: That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote, by K.J. Bishop

  1. Reya Starck says:

    You’ve yet to steer me wrong with a book recommendation, and the way you’ve described this one has got me intrigued. (In fact, I daren’t start reading it now, because it’s only half an hour until bedtime, and I’m pretty certain I’ll be up half the night if I make a start on it!)

    I’ve been bugging Amazon UK to get The Etched City available on Kindle in the UK (to no avail yet *shakes fist*), and I absolutely cannot wait to read this new collection.

  2. Kirby Crow says:

    Wait til tomorrow when you’ve got all afternoon to enjoy, yes. You’ll also need a pot of tea and some very special goodies to go with this one! I loved it so much.

  3. Dude, I’m completely humbled by this review! You’re so kind and your sentences are like shiny gifts in beautiful boxes.

    If I had a fortune I’d squander it on a garden like the one you describe, with every attempt to achieve those effects!

    • Kirby Crow says:

      Man, if there was a garden like that I’d live there. 🙂 You’re very welcome. I meant every word.

      I’m crossing my fingers and toes for the success of Mad Ancestor. It totally deserves recognition and I’m gonna shout that every chance I get.

      I’m also closely following the Fragments and trying not to squeal like a silly fangirl every time Gwynn is on the page and speaks. There needs to be more Gwynn fiction in the world!

  4. Pingback: Mad Ancestor update | K.J. Bishop