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5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, but not entirely downbeat.
The contents of BLACK BUTTERFLIES have been neatly dissected into 'This World' and 'That World'. The stories in 'This World' lack overtly fantastic elements, and most of them are very frightening indeed. Shirley's version of 'This World' seems to be populated largely by psychopaths who murder and rape as much from boredom and bafflement as anything else; one of the few...
Published on March 24 2001 by Stephen Dedman

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3.0 out of 5 stars The Eerie World of John Shirley
"Black Butterflies" is a short story collection from horror/science fiction author John Shirley. Shirley, who also wrote the excellent gross out tale "Wetbones," is quite adept at charging his stories with equal parts sex, horror, and suspense. It seems that Shirley spends more time working on science fiction novels, but occasionally, he churns out something like "Black...
Published on Sept. 26 2002 by Jeffrey Leach


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3.0 out of 5 stars The Eerie World of John Shirley, Sept. 26 2002
By 
Jeffrey Leach (Omaha, NE USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Black Butterflies (Mass Market Paperback)
"Black Butterflies" is a short story collection from horror/science fiction author John Shirley. Shirley, who also wrote the excellent gross out tale "Wetbones," is quite adept at charging his stories with equal parts sex, horror, and suspense. It seems that Shirley spends more time working on science fiction novels, but occasionally, he churns out something like "Black Butterflies." When Shirley delves into horror, look out. He likes to write them lean, mean, and sick as you know what.
"Black Butterflies" is divided into two large sections. The first section is entitled, "This World," probably because the stories deal with everyday reality (I use the term "everyday reality" loosely in reference to some of these stories). The type of stories found in this part of the book varies widely. One story tells the bleak tale of a cop with profound suspicions of his partner. Two tales show the importance of screening people before fooling around with them. Stories about a horror film that is a little too real, an answering machine message one hopes never to hear on their own machine, and the after effects of an earthquake round out the first part of the book.
The second section, entitled, "That World," deals with stories involving supernatural elements. Arguably the best story here is the first one, concerning a little girl and her imaginary friend viewing a side of family life that is both disconcerting and extremely gross. Other stories deal with the end of the world and its aftermath, a sculptor looking for inspiration, an encounter with alien beings who pick up victims in bars, the grim results of mixing [narcotics] with industrial strength insecticide, and a funny story about a battle between good and evil that takes place in a heavy metal/thrash bar.
Again and again, Shirley digs deep into the depths of depravity and despair with this collection of stories. What becomes most apparent as the book unfolds is the intimate knowledge Shirley seems to have with the dark side of human existence. When Shirley writes about the dangers of [narcotics], it seems like he knows about it from first hand experience. There are many authors that festoon their books with endless pages of violence and gore, but few do what Shirley does: create the starkest, grittiest atmospheres in which violence and gore not only unfold, but seem natural to the environment.
One slight problem with the stories in this collection is that many of the stories aren't very original. The horror film story concept has been done, along with the bad relationship/horror story. This tends to blunt some of the book's punch. Shirley certainly has the right to attempt to redo a certain storyline that's been done to death in the past, but more originality in doing so would have elevated this book above the merely average.
... But for a quick dip into this author's eerie work, "Black Butterflies" will certainly do the trick.
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4.0 out of 5 stars John Shirley's strong voice overcomes weak presentation., Nov. 19 2001
By 
Chadwick H. Saxelid "Bookworm" (Concord, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Black Butterflies (Mass Market Paperback)
Black Butterflies is a collection of overtly horrific stories written by cyberpunk pioneer John Shirley. Sadly the tales are evenly divided into either 'This World' or 'That World' sections, allowing the reader to know in advance whether there is to be a supernatural twist or not, which robs the stories of more than a little zing of surprise.
Weakness of presentation aside, the stories themselves are a mixed bag. Some, notably 'What Would You Do For Love' (which could qualify as a cyberpunk romance story), the commute nightmare 'Cram', and the real life inspired 'War and Peace', are quite fresh and invigorating. While others, 'The Rubber Smile' especially (which shares an identical irony laced ending with Shirley's early horror novel 'Cellars'), are nothing but shop worn cliches trotted out yet again and presented as if they were hip and fresh, which they aren't. More than a few are variants on a particular theme and suffer from being too close together (i.e. 'You Hear What Buddy and Ray Did?' and 'The Footlite' in particular). In the end though, Shirley's strong and distinct voice does give each dark hearted tale its own unique character that sticks with the reader long after the tale is done. The Horror Noir crowd should find it interesting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, but not entirely downbeat., March 24 2001
By 
Stephen Dedman (Bayswater, WA Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Black Butterflies (Paperback)
The contents of BLACK BUTTERFLIES have been neatly dissected into 'This World' and 'That World'. The stories in 'This World' lack overtly fantastic elements, and most of them are very frightening indeed. Shirley's version of 'This World' seems to be populated largely by psychopaths who murder and rape as much from boredom and bafflement as anything else; one of the few characters in 'This World' to display anything resembling empathy is the computer science teacher in 'What Would You Do For Love?', and she uses computer models to help predict the actions of people around her. 'What Would You Do For Love?' is not only the last story in 'This World', as though it were a segue into 'That World', it's the first in which most of the characters will seem familiar to nearly all of us, and the first with something like a conventionally happy ending. Shirley's talent is that he enables us to empathise with characters who have so little empathy for others, whether we want to or not, despite gut-punch beginnings that many horror writers might use as a coup de grace. 'That World' throws overt fantasy elements into Shirley's universe, and while some of the stories (such as 'Pearldoll' and 'Aftertaste') are almost conventional horror tales, others are... different. 'The Exquisitely Bleeding Heads of Doktur Palmer Vreedeez', in which celebrities are encased alive in plastic sheathing for a horrific sculpture garden to the enjoyment of Idi Amin, is a enormously over-the-top sick joke. 'Delia and the Dinner Party', in which a little girl's 'imaginary friend' translates her parents' over-dinner conversations, is a gem, and if you'd prefer something upbeat and dislike televangelists as devoutly as I do, 'Flaming Telepaths' will make your day.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Androgyny's Opulent Ruins, May 22 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Black Butterflies (Paperback)
As the title suggests, _Black Butterflies_ predates body modification and goth mascara. It issues from an era when Patti Smith could write "to me, female means feel male" In spirit, Butterflies freestyles from the period of Lou Reed's "Transformer", a period when a young man who wore mascara was simply seen as a musician, and transsexuals wielded a newly dangerous aesthetic presence. Butterflies also makes neo-Edwardian references to Wilde, of course. We have now had two decade's worth of self-conscious masculinity in music and art; marine-styled fades and mooncuts with razorsculpted sideburns and shadings of facial hair, aggressive muscularity, male voices that veer gruffly toward purism and aesthetic homophobia. More recently, the box office and the pop charts have rediscovered, through the adolescent audience, the adolescent preference for androgynous sexuality. Let's hope that now, in the late nineties, the sacred domain of teenage girls is not simply going to be pirated and pillaged by corporations and cynics
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4.0 out of 5 stars disturbing, Aug. 14 2003
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This review is from: Black Butterflies (Mass Market Paperback)
This book of short stories is divided into two sections, This World and That World, which deal with everyday horrors and otherworldly horrors respectively. Of these two sections, the first is the most successful, which mostly involve the shocking realities of the underbelly of society, evoking a hybrid of John Rechy and Stephen King, and hitting you with the impact of a screwdriver to the kidneys (the best of these, "Cram", will have you thinking twice about ever getting on the subway again). The second section, comprising more outright horror, is less successful (By far the best of these is "Delia and the Dinner Party"). Though Shirley is a very vivid writer, the shocks in these stories seem mostly arbitrary and forced compared to those in the first section. Still worth checking out, though. I also docked him some points for using rock lyrics as titles-- he's much too good a writer to be slumming like that.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Strong stuff, not for the timid or the easily offended., Jan. 2 2004
By 
Neal Reynolds (Indianapolis, Indiana) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Black Butterflies (Mass Market Paperback)
This collection isn't for the faint-of-heart, nor for the easily offended. John Shirley holds nothing back, and these stories are thoroughly chilling, sexually perverse, and from a world we don't really want to know. We meet characters we don't really want to know such as the title lady in the first story, "Barbara", a victim of a carjacking who in her weirdness takes over the situation and takes her carjackers into her own perverted world. Then there's the cop who suspects his partner has murdered his own wife. A subway trip during an earthquake. A probing into the psyches of slasher movie fans. A televangelist telecasting from one of the most satanic appearing rock cafes. An immortal slaughtering Earth's remaining population. These are stories to be taken one at a time. Maybe they're not all great, but you'll find several you won't forget.
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5.0 out of 5 stars dark stories for this and that world, May 11 1998
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This review is from: Black Butterflies (Paperback)
_Black Butterflies_ by John Shirley is a collection of a decade's worth of dark short stories by Shirley, the author of _Wetbones_ and writer of the screenplay for "The Crow." Half of the stories involve the horrors of "this world," the dark streets and alleyways of our existence; the other half of the stories involve "that world," the strange and supernatural.
Shirley's stories are dark, intense, imaginative and will often sear images into your brain. Recommended for fans of dark fiction, perhaps along the lines of Clive Barker.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read..., July 31 2001
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This review is from: Black Butterflies (Mass Market Paperback)
This dark collection of stories was very interesting. Take a nightmare, and imagine it being warped, twisted, and then shown to you in print. John Shirley had one or two stories in there that I've read again, simply because they were so powerful. Others, I read, and promptly flushed from my memory banks... If you're looking for spooky, violent and fairly sexually themed stories, this is good. If you're easily offended, or have a weak stomach, skip this...
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1.0 out of 5 stars Got Porn?, July 19 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Black Butterflies (Mass Market Paperback)
I would say that this collection is too formulaic, but the writing is a bit too lazy. Obscurity and rampant sexual bravado takes away from the true essence of horror fiction. There are some excellent foundations here, but the obscure sexual interactions are cheap and seedy. If you are looking for a place on your shelf for this collection, place it next to V.C. Andrews or Danielle Steel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Immediately buy anything by John Shirley, March 16 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Black Butterflies (Paperback)
This is an incredible book. Without a doubt, original, intense, and scary. It's not horror, and it's not science fiction. Black Butterflies is unique. John Shirley is a vastly underrated postmodernist writer. Anyone who longs for something different should read his work. I did, and I enjoyed it all immensely.
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