King Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle Tree by Elizabeth Bear


Title: King Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle Tree
Author: Elizabeth Bear
In: Naked City (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: CircusGhosts, Urban fantasy
Dates read: 26th December 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Year: 2011
5th sentence, 74th page: Following the line of his motion, I realized suddenly that there was an awful lot of ink on my arm.

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He followed the ghost to the Bottle Tree. Then he started to lose his memory. How will they get it back?


I think that one of my greatest fears about growing old is the idea of forgetting everything that I know. There is a history of dementia in my family, so it’s a particularly scary thought for me. Which kind of made this story quite intense and almost terrifying. After all, it’s about forgetting parts of yourself that you don’t even know your forgetting. Sounds a little too familiar if you ask me.

I loved that this story’s lead was actually a city. In a weird, metaphysical way. Or a deity of the city, that’s a huge conversation for another day. But the idea was still brilliant. It made me wonder what beings would be created by my cities and towns. What they would forget with the passage of time. And how their personalities would change.

Probably the thing that I loved most about this story though was the interconnection between the circus, death and ghosts. It’s a surprising mix and not one that I would have thought of for myself. Yet, it was so blatantly obvious with a backdrop of LA once you read it. Such a great adventure!

 <- The Colliers’ Venus (1893) ReviewNightmare Carnival Review ->
Image source: Patricia Briggs

2 thoughts on “King Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle Tree by Elizabeth Bear

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