Long After Last Call: Natalka Burian’s The Night Shift

New York is a city in which the fabric of space-time seems particularly flexible. It’s not just how the subway, rushing inconsistently at all hours, feels like it could open onto any moment in the past. (It is a time travel portal in Russian Doll and Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop). It’s not just the way the city’s history is right there, all the time, in the names of places, the name of the island of Manhattan itself, the gaping space in the downtown skyline that some of us can never not see. 

It’s the way the city is layered with the places it used to be. Things can change so fast that if you live in a neighborhood for more than a few years, you don’t just see a present-day bodega, burrito place, inevitable Starbucks; you see all the places those storefronts used to be, the bars long closed, the coffee shops transformed. “But that was New York,” Emma Straub writes in This Time Tomorrow, “watching every place you’d kissed or cried, every place you loved, turn into something else.”

Natalka Burian’s The Night Shift is set in New York City in the early 2000s (a narrative act of time travel in itself). Jean Smith just quit her job; her beloved boss, famed psychotherapist Myra Goldstein, got a little too friendly and curious about Jean’s past, which Jean doesn’t talk about. She throws herself into not just one new job but two: bartending at Red and Gold in the evenings, and working at a bakery following her bartending shift. The hours are long and late and the distance between the two businesses is just a little too far for convenience.

That’s where the shortcuts come in.

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Five Dark YA Fantasies About the Fae

The first house I lived in was a bi-level with a long, straight-shot hallway from the kitchen to the living room. Full length mirrors were set into the walls, in very 1980s fashion. My brother and I would turn off all the lights in the house and run up and down that hallway, catching ghostly glimpses of ourselves in the mirrors, playing “Night Faeries.”

A foreboding kind of rush would prickle through me as I held my arms out wide, making them wings, and swooping along in search of night flowers and glowing fruits (I think we were watching a lot of FernGully at the time). There was something illicit to the whole thing—being in the dark, transforming ourselves into something human but not quite. I couldn’t have recognized it at six years old, but there was a whiff of the uncanny to our game, and it was laced with “what if.” What if we were us, but we could fly? What if we were us, but magic?

That, I think, is one of the reasons fae stories are so enduring. They could be us. Fae are often portrayed as looking human, speaking like humans, interacting with humans, but they’re more. Immortal, bearers of powers that inspire both awe and fear. We want to get closer.

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Series: Five Books About…

Stephen King’s The Regulators Is Headed to the Screen

You can never have too many Stephen King adaptations. According to Deadline, the next work from the prolific author on the adaptation docket is The Regulators, the 1996 novel about… well, wow, this one’s about a lot. Including transforming houses?

The book has been optioned by the Bohemia Group, which brought on George Cowan—who seems to be new to screenwriting, at least per his stark IMDb page—to write the screenplay.

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Sometimes, Only the Most Heart-Crushing Book Will Do

The first time I read a book that made me sob—great choking sobs that I desperately did not want anyone to hear me making—I was on a Greyhound bus, reading Where the Red Fern Grows. I was not yet old enough to have learned the painful lesson that, often, when there are loyal or exceptional or loving or generally wonderful animals in a book, bad things are likely to happen to them.

Sobbing on a Greyhound is a memorable experience. But then, so is the experience of reading any book that can reduce you to a puddle, no matter where you are. There is much to be said for books that do the opposite—the ones that light a fire, that lift you up and remind you what matters, that inspire and brighten and gleam. For triumph and the thrill of success, for the books full of excitement and drama, the ones that make you feel like you ought to lean forward in your seat while you read them, to get somehow closer to the action. 

But let’s talk about the absolute heartbreakers for a minute.

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Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Eighty-Nine

Lyn: Good morning, cosmere chickens!

Paige: Happy Stormlight Thursday to you all. We’re rejoining Navani and Raboniel this week, our favorite frenemies who love to science.

L: Obligatory…

P: And love to do it together. We see some great conversation in this chapter between the Queen and the Lady of Wishes, but we’ll talk about that below.

L: Alice had to take a bit of a breather for a (joyous) family reason, so I’ll be joining Paige again this week.

[Science was all about lines, about imposing order on chaos.]

Series: Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Understatement of the Space-Time Continuum: N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became (Part 5)

Welcome back to Reading the Weird, in which we get girl cooties all over weird fiction, cosmic horror, and Lovecraftiana—from its historical roots through its most recent branches.

This week, we continue N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became with Chapter 6. The novel was first published in March 2020. Spoilers ahead! CW for depictions of racist and misogynist art including some that graphically portrays sexual assault.

[“What part of ‘we don’t do bigotry’ do you not understand?”]

Series: Reading the Weird

The Pursuit of Happyness — Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

From August 2017 – January 2020, Keith R.A. DeCandido took a weekly look at every live-action movie based on a superhero comic that had been made to date in the weekly Superhero Movie Rewatch. In this latest revisit we’ve covered some older movies—It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman!, Mandrake, and the two Timecop movies—and two December 2021 releases—Spider-Man: No Way Home and The King’s Man—we finish off with the first three 2022 movies: The Batman, Morbius, and now the latest Doctor Strange flick.

The concept of the multiverse has been all over Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After Avengers: Endgame gave us the notion of alternate time tracks and Spider-Man: Far from Home had Mysterio using the concept as part of his long con to end Phase Three, we’ve gotten the multiverse spelled out in Loki, explored in more depth in What If…? season one, and serving as the plot catalyst in Spider-Man: No Way Home.

In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it is the plot…

[You break the rules and become a hero. I do it, and I become the enemy. That doesn’t seem fair.]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

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