A Natural History of Hell

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews A Natural History of Hell: Stories by Jeffrey Ford.

Ford A Natural History of Hell

This book is an excellent collection of thirteen short stories by Jeffrey Ford. There is a lot of variety among the stories, with a few actually having to do with “hell” or “the devil.” A couple are science fiction. There are two in which Ford represents himself as a narrating character, so that they recount stories supposedly told to him. Most could be classed as supernatural horror, although none are exactly typical of the genre. All are memorable and worth reading.

Out of the thirteen, “The Angel Seems” was the one that most reminded me of Ford’s Well-Built City trilogy, and it almost seemed as if it could have been placed in that unusual fantasy world. “Blood Drive” is a story about high school, set in the near future when first published in 2013, and now looking disturbingly prescient. There is a tale of fairies (“The Fairy Enterprise”), a ghost story (“The Thyme Fiend”), and a piece of sword and sorcery (“Spirits of Salt”). The longest story in the collection features Emily Dickinson as its protagonist.

The cover of the paperback edition boasts a blurb from Joyce Carol Oates in which she praises Ford as “beautifully disorienting.” His fantasy constantly raises epistemological questions, but in the most matter-of-fact ways. Although I had read a number of his short stories before (including one of these), this was the first time I’ve read a full volume of them, and the experience was very satisfying.

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