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    An excellent collection

    A collection of stories aimed at decolonising Kipling's Just So Stories. Kipling is always a fascinating one: steeped in Empire and white supremacy, yet constantly yearning for the country and cultures he is fully behind the pillaging of. There is so much to find loathsome about Kipling and yet at his best you can see the brilliant, sensitive writer he could be. And boy could he make phrases. 'The white man's burden' (of bringing his culture and supremacy to everyone else like it or not); 'the female of the species is more deadly than the male'. These concepts get a hell of a workout in this excellent collection. And if you don't really understand what 'decolonising Kipling' means: don't worry, you'll get it. The collection kicks off with one of the best stories in it: Cassandra Khaw's 'How The Spider Got Her Legs', a depiction of how the spider goes from a creature very like a worm that turns to reinvent herself as a lethal monster in vengeance for the death of her children. Khaw is a genius horror writer and this was very much the point I decided this was in no way a collection for children because the ending is hide-behind-the-sofa horrific. Some of the stories are direct riffs on Kipling down to the descriptions of the pictures: either new stories in his style like the Khaw or the charming paean to inclusive storytelling "How the Simurgh Won Her Tail" by Ali Nouraei, or retellings of actual Just Sos (eg the fantastic, savage feminist roar of rage 'The Cat Who Walked By Herself' by Achala Upendran). Others are more loosely related, reminding me much more of Plain Tales from the Hills and/or Kipling's ghost stories than the Just So Stories. Pretty much all of them are about power and its abuse--male power, white supremacy, colonialism, slavery. "How the Ants Got Their Queen" by Stewart Hotston is an excoriating fable about the aftereffects of colonialism and the recent history of the Indian subcontinent in particular. The collection ends with the hilarious "How the Camel Got Her Paid Time Off" by Paul Krueger, which is about unionising and capitalism and office culture, and works perfectly with the theme. Overall this is really excellent. Thought-provoking in multiple directions, blood-boiling, great writing, diverse casts, and there's not a dud in the collection. Highly recommended.

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