Asja Bakić’s stories are a dark delight—a treasury of forbidden pleasures, moments of resistance and resilience, and terrifying possibilities.” —Strange Horizons
“There’s an immediacy to Bakić’s offbeat worldview, sometimes strange and surreal, sometimes terrifying and upsetting, that pairs perfectly with the madness of the current political moment.” —Locus Magazine
“At turns funny, surreal, and grounded in simple language but flung through twisted realities, the stories in this collection are provocative and utterly readable.” —The Brooklyn Rail
“Skillfully disorienting.” —BUST
“Nested comfortably in the twilight zone, these stories push familiar scenarios (a cheating spouse, the serial killer next door) into the speculative realm and, in the process, push fiction in the direction of activism.” —Literary Hub
“Mars is an expedition, to be sure, and it demands that you hold on with the same force that it holds onto you long light years after it draws to a close.” —Paperback Paris
“From the very first story, the exciting plot lines and thought-provoking topics keep you reading and wanting more; however, this book is best taken slowly, with time in between to savor each story.” —Asymptote
“Stylistic deftness and unpredictability [continue] throughout this collection. Bakić is after answers to questions that defy explanation.” —Words Without Borders
“Brilliant, unsettling explorations of gender, sexuality and genre.” —Shelf Awareness
"Bosnian writer Bakic’s debut teems with the oddball narratives of George Saunders, the eerie atmosphere of Edgar Allan Poe, and the feminist intellect of Marge Piercy. . . . Told in a straightforward manner that transports speculative fiction into almost realist territory, Bakic’s collection imaginatively and strikingly examines sci-fi tropes from not only the point of view of women, but also from the voice of an effortlessly gifted writer whose future is much brighter than that of those depicted in her stories." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Bakic’s stories are perfectly of the American short-fiction zeitgeist—dark, sometimes indeterminate, sidestepping realism—but as the afterword points out, there are few writers from the Balkans that make use of the speculative or the dystopian in their work, which makes this collection all the more darkly alluring.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Mars showcases Asja Bakić’s strong and unique voice. These are sly, uncommon stories—a rare mix of the witty and the visceral, with no small hint of the decadent and transgressive. A major talent.” —Jeff VanderMeer, author of Borne
“Mars is a compelling collection of finely nuanced stories that are equally playful, haunting, erotic, willfully mischievous, profoundly melancholy, and more than a touch perverse. Jennifer Zoble’s masterful translation of Asja Bakić’s youthfully elastic genre-blending prose is a stunning achievement, and these stories are an absolute pleasure to read.” —Donald Breckenridge, author of You Are Here
“Asja Bakić’s debut will transport you to another world, one that is as ethereal as it is cryptic. A visceral, imaginative, and deeply satisfying work.” —Cristina Rodriguez, Deep Vellum Books
“Unsettling in unsettling ways, Bakić’s mix of realism with science fiction and fabulism occupies the uncanny valley between the recognizable and the unrecognizable, unsheathing the weirdness of daily life.” —Josh Cook, Porter Square Books
A debut short story collection from Bosnian writer Bakic takes an off-kilter look at sexuality, death, and the power of literature.
In "Day Trip to Durmitor," the first story in Bakic's mysterious debut, two secretaries of the afterlife greet the dead protagonist. Her task, they explain, is to write a book of stories; if they're good, the protagonist gets to return to the land of the living—as a zombie on the "hunt for the human brain." After all, one of the secretaries says, "Literature is…the primary link between life and death." Indeed, many of Bakic's stories have writer protagonists who are in deeply strange predicaments. One wants to write an article on a cult living in a cave made of green glowing rock only to discover she has the same supernatural powers as the cult leader ("The Guest"). One is a novelist caught in a web of deception and obsession over the true author of the latest literary smash ("Passions"). Another is, with all other writers, part of a new settlement on Mars after being exiled from Earth when writing was declared "the greatest evil to have befallen humankind" ("Mars"). There is even an Orphan Black-esque narrative in which a writer named Asja has been cloned and must organize with her variants against their creator ("Asja 5.0"). Bakic's stories are perfectly of the American short-fiction zeitgeist—dark, sometimes indeterminate, sidestepping realism—but as the afterword points out, there are few writers from the Balkans that make use of the speculative or the dystopian in their work, which makes this collection all the more darkly alluring.
The bizarre and often inscrutable worlds here should find fans among lovers of cutting-edge short fiction.