Strange Medicine – A Review

Well, I sadly haven’t posted a full review in some time, but when I was approached and asked to review another one of Mike Russell’s books I just had to say yes. Last year I reviewed his book Nothing is Strange, which turned out to be an exceedingly strange, yet enjoyable read (you can see my review for that book here). This time around I was sent Strange Medicine, another collection of short stories orbiting around all that is strange and mysterious. From stories about murdered mimes to shoulder fish, Strange Medicine is about all the weird things you couldn’t possibly imagine, and may not want to, but is captivating in its own unique way.

The thing I’ve found I love about Mr. Russell’s tales is that, once you get past all of the strange and abnormal events that are occurring, you can generally find some sort of lesson, moral or brutal truth about the society we live in today. Maybe it’s just me, but I find that the situations the characters are in, or place themselves in, have glaringly obvious messages pointing to the flaws in humanity. For example, the first short story, Flock, is about a man who does the same thing EVERYDAY, literally does not change his routine one bit until his wife stops appearing to make him dinner everyday. He chooses a rather odd way to feel again (or that’s how it seemed to me) and only then does he begin to notice his wife again and feel enthralled by her once more. I mean how many times have you found yourself just going mindlessly through a daily routine, not really taking in what’s going on around you? Yeah, it happens to all of us and I feel that Mr. Russell did an excellent job portraying this part of life.

My favorite story in the collection is Mime, a tale about numerous murders of these poor mimes by a tyrannical park employee. This story is a bit darker than some of the others, which it why I liked it so much, and has a determined, strong female lead that I would actually really enjoy reading a full length novel about. One aspect that I really loved about Mime was that it illustrates how differently people perceive the world around them. We all have our own filters or are willing to ignore the things we don’t approve of, or worse yet try to violently control the things we don’t like, and this is shown perfectly to us readers while still leaving openings for us to question everything that’s happening. Mr. Russell has done an amazing job of defining his strange stories, yet still leaving us enough of an opening to further our imaginings of these little worlds he’s creating.

All together I really enjoyed Strange Medicine, but I will say there was some stories and characters I could do without. I didn’t particularly love the story called Brain, it wasn’t for me, but I imagine there’s someone else out there that would enjoy more than I did. There were a couple of stories too that I wish had just given a little something more. That being said, I still really liked this book in all of it’s odd, quirky, weird glory. The writing was well done, the worlds interestingly crafted and it gives you a dose of realism if you know where to look. I would definitely recommend this collection of stories for anyone looking to step outside their comfort zone, or to anyone that just loves all things strange.

Four out of five stars.

This book was provided to me via the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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