All hail Aliya Whitely, herald of the New New Weird. Her writing is strange and speculative and magical, not in the way of China Miéville or Jeff VanderMeer, but in a way totally her own. Other New Weird? Post New Weird? Weirder New Post Weird? Something like that. Whiteley’s writing is unique and sure maybe she’s ultimately saying things you’ve heard before (maybe), but she’s saying them in ways that you most certainly haven’t. Putting stories and thoughts into frames you never considered.
Write down the name Aliya Whiteley and remember it. Order her books. Read them. Even if it turns out they’re too weird for you, you’ll have a strange and awkward conversation starter for the next time your unsuspecting friends ask you what you’ve been reading. The Beauty? Oh it’s about a world with no women, but then these mushroom women show up and…well, then it gets complicated. The Arrival of Missives (Unsung Stories, 2016) sounds pretty standard at first (read the synopsis here), but is weird, totally fucking weird, yeah ok maybe not as weird as The Beauty, but weird and utterly readable, page turning even, with a strong narrative voice that never wavers.
(Weird weird weird weird weird weird weird. Read to the end of this review to find out if Nikki ever thinks of another adjective! Spoiler: NOPE.)
Where The Beauty was part puzzle, The Arrival of Missives is more overt. Overtly triumphant. Overtly feminist. A take-that-mother-fuckers high five for those forced to deal with misogynistic men, men who ultimately act as a vessel steered by the narratives of another generation. The way this message is conveyed via symbolism and unexpected speculative elements is fucking fantastic. It is strong and powerful, but it doesn’t hammer you over the head and try to drag you back to its cave.
The Arrival of Missives is 120 pages, and if I start analyzing it now the way I was analyzing it as I read, there will be no surprises left for you to discover when you buy it yourself (DO IT). I’ll leave you those surprises, and one delicious quote to tide us both over, on what is far too often the female experience of reading:
“I have had no experience of life; how could I see all the traps, particularly the ones that looked most like my own choices, my own happiness? Keats did not warn me, and neither did Dickens. I did not find myself in their writings.” (85)
Rating: Six out of seven phallic May poles.