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BAD SUSHI – a Cthulhu review

September 10, 2011

A new Cthulhu anthology came out last month, THE BOOK OF CTHULHU, edited by Ross Lockhart. The table of contents is an impressive roll-call that includes Charles Stross, Bruce Sterling, Elizabeth Bear, T.E.D. Klien, Cherie Priest, John Hornor Jacobs, Brian Lumley, and more. Some stories and authors are new to me, some I’ve read before.

I wondered what they’d do in the Cthulhu realm, so I thumbed through the book at the Powell’s on Hawthorne, catching random words, sentences, descriptions and submerged imagery, until I knew this anthology was a keeper.

BAD SUSHI by Cherie Priest is the first story I read. It centers on Baku, an old-timer, a sushi chef at a joint called Sonada’s in an average modern American town. Raised in coastal Japan he is intimate with the ocean and its bounty, so I believe it when Baku thinks he’s caught a strange scent among the fish meats at Sonada’s.

The smell triggers a memory for Baku, who fought as a young man in WWII at Guadalcanal in the Pacific, a battle which put him within reach of an unexpected danger. The memory is a well written flashback in this short story and absolutely impressed upon me why Baku would react strongly to and never forget so strange a smell. From there we come right back to Now as Baku returns to work and notices more askew than just the smell.

Cherie Priest’s BAD SUSHI is a terrific Cthulhu story that resonates with the sort of Jungian imagery that tethers Lovecraft’s stories to our unconscious fears. With images of war, watery depths, seafood, and night’s dark possibilities, Priest plants fun genre references–from the implied name of the vendor to the delivery man’s fishy behavior–and keeps Baku’s story adroitly limited. It’s a tight short story and a pleasure to read.


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