Unfortunate Elements of my Anatomy by Hailey Piper

Review by Brennan LaFaro

If you like brevity in your book reviews, this collection can be summed up by simply saying read Hailey Piper. There’s a reason her short fiction is everywhere (this is not hyperbole) and 2020 saw her release not one, but two top shelf novellas in Benny Rose, the Cannibal King and The Worm and His Kings. She’s that good, and Unfortunate Elements of my Anatomy is no exception.
Collecting pieces written from about 2018 to early 2020, Anatomy shows fair range in style, running the gamut from heartwrenching pieces like “The Law of Conservation of Death”, my personal favorite, to humor like “Demons of Particular Taste”. Traditional horror tropes to dark fantasy to twisted nightmares you won’t see anywhere else. Not only does Piper embrace diverse subject matter, but the story lengths even keep the reader on their toes. Piper interspersed flash pieces with stories of a more customary length, ultimately closing with a novelette.
“Feast for Small Pieces” is a bombastic opener, reminding this reader of a band leading an album off with frantic drums and thrashing guitar to make sure the listener, or reader in this case, is paying attention. It takes us directly into “The Law of Conservation of Death”, a piece destined to wheedle its way into your consciousness and take root. Try forgetting this one.
“I’m Not a Chainsaw Kind of Girl, but…” is a brutal ride, laced with unforgettable description. “We All Scream” lingers with vivid imagery. Possibly the creepiest story in the collection. You’ll never listen to the tinkling bells of the ice cream man quite the same way.
“The Burning of the Blueberries” was another favorite. Packed with commentary on toxic masculinity and finding one’s place in the world, Piper explores the concept beautifully, landing in an unexpected, but inescapable place. “Recitation of the First Feeding” closes out the collection. With some parts reminiscent of MR James and others of Clive Barker, this thing is all Hailey Piper, and the collection couldn’t have ended any other way.
This is but the first offering of 2021. We’ve still got Queen of Teeth and copious amounts more coming from this talented author before the countdown takes us to 2022, but this is a hell of a way to start things off.

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