(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)
Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to Hell Patrol by Judas Priest (Spotify, Youtube)
In the last few years, Adam-Troy Castro has become one my favorite short fiction authors. I reckon I have read about a dozen of his stories and I have loved them all. The ones included in Her Husband's Hands and Other Stories are, of course, no exception.
These eight short stories are a perfect showcase for some of Castro's obsessions: monsters, children, children who are terrorized by monsters, children who are monsters themselves. The tone of the book is, thus, a bit dark and certainly disturbing (in the good sense of "disturbing"), at least when compared to other, lighter and cheerier stories written by him. I'm thinking, for instance, of the humorous "My Wife Hates Time Travel" or the really sweet (in the good sense of "sweet") "Sunday Night Yams at Minnie and Earl's". Consequently, some of the tales in Her Husband's Hands and Other Stories may upset those with weak stomachs, but if you can endure a bit of gore and some raw violence, you're in for a ride.
I'd be hard pressed to select my favorite tale in Her Husband's Hands and Other Stories because all of them have a lot of things to be liked. "Arvies", for instance, was the first story by Castro that I read and I still find it brilliant and bold, both in its form and in its content. But, to my surprise and delight, I found myself enjoying those stories that are plain horror ("Cherub", "The Shallow End of the Pool" and "Pieces of Ethan") the most. This was an aspect of Castro's work that I had yet to discover and I was completely blown away by it. So much that I will be looking for more of his horror stories though it is a genre I don't usually read.
I did also like "Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs" very much. This dystopia was the only other story of the collection that I haven't previously read and now I understand why it has been reprinted several times. It reminded me, somehow, of the classic "Those Who Walk Way from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin, but with a dark twist thrown in for good measure. "Her Husband's Hands" and "Our Human" are more straightforward science fiction stories with just a slight horror undertone and they both are very enjoyable. "The Boy and the Box," while being a good story, might be the weakest of the collection. I really liked the premise, but I feel that it could have used a little more developing. Finally, the author's stories notes to be found at the end of the book were very interesting and added a lot to the overall enjoyment of the collection.
As you can see, I really loved Her Husband's Hands and Other Stories. My only problem with this book, and I really don't say this lightly (in fact, I rarely say it at all), is that it was far too short. I liked each and every story that was included, but I wanted the collection to include even more. For instance, I find it difficult to understand why "During the Pause" and "My Wife Hates Time Travel" were not selected for Her Husband's Hands and Other Stories, since they were published around the same time that almost all the other stories in the book. I hope it means that we will be seeing more collections of Castro's stories in the near future (or, at least, reprints of those who are unavailable at the moment such as An Alien Darkness, Tangled Strings or A Desperate, Decaying Darkness). I literally can't get enough of them.
All in all, Her Husband's Hands and Other Stories is a superb collection and one that I cannot recommend highly enough, especially if you haven't read any of Castro's short fiction before. If that is the case, let me tell you that I profoundly envy you: you're in for a disturbing yet wonderful and amazing treat.