"From the Neck Up and Other Stories" Book Review

Written by Tracy Robinson

Published by Titan Books

from the neck up aliya whiteley poster large

Written by Aliya Whiteley
2021, 231 pages, Fiction
Released on September 14th, 2021


People who read very few anthologies or short story collections, as well as people who read them frequently, deserve a great experience each time. From the Neck Up and Other Stories is just such a collection. This book contains 16 stories ranging in length from flash fiction to almost-novelette length and traverses a great many topics. One thing these tales have in common is the human experience, and Aliya Whiteley’s imagination in regards to this is impressive.

What follows are some of my favorite stories to highlight the overall feel of the collection. All of them are great examples of the short form in horror fiction and evoke a range of emotions.

My real name is gone. I have left it so far in the past that I can pretend it is forgotten. Age, however, I cannot leave behind. It stalks me, and pounces, again and again, shaking me between its teeth until my skin sags and my gums flap. - Aliya Whiteley, “Brushwork”

“Brushwork”: One of the best signs that a short story collection is going to rock is the first story. Authors and editors attempt to put their “best foot forward”, and it really does matter. “Brushwork” is a fabulous take on a post-apocalyptic story. Set in some future Ice Age, the main character is aged and works with others to farm as much food as they can to send out for the larger corporation they work for. The characters are amazing and so well done, and when that is added to dealing with ageism, sexual fluidity, and suspense, well, it just doesn’t get much better than this.

“Many Eyed Monsters”: As the first body horror story in the collection, it gives a preview of what’s to come with “Into Glass” and “The Spoils”. “Many Eyed Monsters” is visceral and also, somehow, endearing. To say too much is to give it all away; just expect lots of eyes, and “births”, and…monsters.

“Three Love Letters From an Unrepeatable Garden”: This story is weird and beautiful. Think of Shirley Jackson mixed with Daphne DuMaurier, with a little hint of Sarah Read (The Boneweaver’s Orchard) thrown in for extra creep factor. A forbidden flower with a history. Three letters to try to explain it. This really shows the range of styles that can be expected in this book.

“Compel”: Found footage in literature? Yes. In this epistolary tale, the main character recounts their experiences with an alien invasion. Whiteley twists expectations and this story goes places most readers won’t expect. It shares that same Jackson tone as “Three Love Letters…” and “From the Neck Up”, but combines it with this H.G. Wells found-footage style. You just have to read it.

“From the Neck Up”: Whiteley brings in some Creepshow vibes for this story. It’s weird and odd and just fascinating. A girl who is trying to get back on her feet and get out of her mom’s house hears of a terrible accident and finds something…interesting in her bed (think The Godfather, but it’s not a horse). Simply put, this is one story you shouldn’t miss.

For the sake of length and reader discovery, I will refrain from waxing on about all of the others I enjoyed. “Loves of the Long Dead”, “Into Glass”, and “The Spoils” are also firm favorites. This is a book for anyone who has loved Whiteley’s novels, or for someone who has not read her work before. It's rare to enjoy all the stories in one collection, but From the Neck Up and Other Stories is beautifully crafted.


Overall: 4 Star Rating Cover
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Tracy Robinson
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/tracy_reads70
Staff Reviewer
Tracy Robinson is a horror reader and reviewer. She posts reviews on Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads/Amazon. She reviews at least bimonthly for Sci Fi and Scary and she has five book reviews (and more to come) published in Rue Morgue magazine. She is also a member of the Ladies of Horror Fiction team, a grassroots organization which strives to lift up women horror authors. In her “spare” time (ha!) she teaches college literature and composition courses as well as high school English, all while spending as much time outside with her kids and husband. You can can follow Tracy on Twitter, or give her a follow on Instagram.
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