Reviews

Reviews – Mammals, I Think We Are Called

Longlisted for The Edge Hill Short Story Prize 2023

Follow the fabulous Des Lewis Gestalt Real Time Reviews of Mammals.

A fantastic collection which contains some of the most startlingly genre-bending stories I think I’ve ever read. My personal favourites are the matter-of-factly sci-fi ‘Everybody Knows That Place’ and the folk horror/ dark comedy/police procedural/ hopeful climate fiction closer ‘Barleycorn’. What a way to end a collection!

– Lynda Clark

I’ve been waiting for a collection of Giselle Leeb’s short stories for a few years, and it’s just as wonderful as I’d hoped! With wry dark humour and a boundless and inventive imagination, Leeb makes us look at the familiar with fresh eyes, taking us out of our everyday realities to explore everything that makes us human or non-human. From the weatherman in the opening story onwards, you won’t want to put this book down, but you will make yourself because you don’t want it to end. Everything that makes a great short story is here.

– Tania Hershman, co-author of A Writers & Artists Companion: Writing Short Stories

I love and admire Giselle Leeb’s prose. These stories are startlingly weird, blackly hilarious, raw and dreamlike. The common thread I think is a breathtakingly of-this-moment sense of alienation–from the natural world, from each other, from a sense of what’s true and what’s deception. But there’s always a shred of hope somewhere in among the disaffection and pain, and that’s what pulls me through the moments of horror. Full disclosure, I was the original publisher of one of these stories, “Wholphinia”, and have for some time been a fan of this author’s style. But I was surprised by the range and breadth of these stories, and in particular was amazed at the poise of “The Goldfinch is Fine”, in which a weatherman gradually loses his mind over an irrational, then increasingly certain terror of rising seas, “Hooked”, in which collective, hallucinatory dreams reunite an isolated city, and “Barleycorn”, in which a mysterious plague of spontaneous hair growth coincides with a hunt for a serial killer. These are challenging stories that invite the reader to engage in unexpected depth.

Michael DeLuca, Editor, Reckoning Magazine

Some people think that good fiction should make you reflect. Others think that a great story should transport you into another world. But what if it could do both? Well, that’s exactly what you’ll find in this new short story collection. Thoughtful, bizarre and fantastical, Mammals, I Think We Are Called is an anthology of true dystopian merit, which leads the reader through a series of stories ranging from the ecological to the technological. Written by Nottingham-based author Giselle Leeb, and published by Salt Publishing, it’s a triumph. 

…Leeb’s work achieves this uncanny Slipstream effect by playing with contrast, and she has a knack for taking the familiar and turning it in on itself, leading the reader into a darker and twisted, but still recognisable, reality. The weatherman who looks for hope in flooding London. The lightning ball that falls onto a coffee shop. The robo-human who is studying ancient history. Throughout the anthology, Leeb succeeds by taking the comfortable things we know, and following them to uncanny and strange ends. 

…Skillfully ambiguous, dark and also optimistic, Mammals, I Think We Are Called is a wonderful contribution to the local literary world. 

– Lizzy O’Riordan, LeftLion

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These stories deserve to be read, to inform change at every level, and to act as a barrier to the humans that would still march further along this doomed path.

Catherine O’Neill for the Word Factory

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Mammals, Monkeys and Marvels

This very original short story collection is amazing. Packed with genre-bending, weird fiction that really makes the reader think about the modern world and our place in it. The author cleverly uses her characters to explore environmental issues and our relationships with animals and technology. Many of these stories made me laugh out loud – lots of subversive, dark humour. I highly recommend.

– Sparklestar – Amazon

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Unforgettable Short Stories

An exuberant, layered and incredibly visual collection, ‘Mammals, I Think We Are Called’ offers a genuinely fresh take on the way we live and the animals we are. Sometimes surreal and always moving, these stories made me think and laugh and broke my heart, leaving me totally blown away.

– Megan Taylor – Amazon

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Reviews – Short Stories

As You Follow’ by Giselle Leeb is superficially fantastical, but at heart it’s an observation on growing up – on mourning the loss of one’s youth and its concomitant joie de vivre; on stepping out of oneself and seeing how one’s former indefatigability, has slowly withered.

Bookmunch

I Probably am a Lonely One

Ambitious, playful and imaginative, this piece has acted as a reminder that there are always new ways of looking at familiar things, always new things to find in old places. Its interesting approach to narrative is as flat and deep as a Hopper painting and does its subject justice indeed.

Rosie Sherwood, Zelda Chappel and Harry Denniston, judges, The Elbow Room Prize 2016

Are you cold monkey? Are you cold?

When I read the first line of ‘Are you cold monkey? Are you cold?’ by Giselle Leeb (actually, even the strange repetitive title hooked me) I hoped that its dreamy oddity wouldn’t leak away into realism. And it didn’t. This is an uncanny piece of writing whose point of view shifts between the ‘girl in the puddle’ with ‘thoughts stacked on top of her’ to the monkey in the laboratory who is seeing the world for the first time, hearing words for the first time, learning to feel hurt, suffer cruelty, feel want. It’s a story about the birth of language and it’s written in kaleidoscopic prose, only just holding on to sense, breaking up into bright images. I loved it.

Nicci Gerrard, guest judge, Mslexia

Ape Songs

“Ape Songs” is a story about a buried girl and a mechanical ape. My mother, who does not generally read SF but is a smart lady, was savvy enough to call it a mix of Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day” and Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”. I thought it was one of the weirder and more challenging stories I received; every time I read it I get something different out of it, and I’ve read it a lot. I find it blackly hilarious, though not without hope.

Michael J. deLuca, guest editor, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet‘Ape Songs’

Thin

In ‘Thin’ Giselle Leeb takes on the subject of body image. She approaches this from a completely unique angle, using SF to make a powerful point: What is normal, after all, and why do we have such a complicated relationship with food, eating and our bodies?

Ann VanderMeer, guest judge, Mslexia