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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

SCI FICTION, February 09, 2005

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"Hell Notes" by M.K. Hobson

Image"Hell Notes" by M.K. Hobson is a treatise on the dangers of really good Chinese food. Well, no. Rather it's an exposition on the virtues of maintaining a healthy marketing mentality.  Scratch that.  It's a discourse on the merits of marrying a beautiful chef.  Okay, okay.  What it is is a humorous tale about a marketing agent who stumbles upon a shoddy, low-end Chinese buffet, the Cheerful Panda, and falls in love with its beautiful cook and her twice-cooked pork.  When she is abruptly replaced by a different chef, he is provoked to investigate, heartbroken and despondent at the notion of never tasting her cooking again.  Hilarity and horror ensues when he is mistaken for a kuei, a hungry ghost, and is introduced to the reality of fine dining a la the afterlife.

Humor is difficult to write well, but Hobson has a knack for it with her astute descriptions, wry punch line deliveries, and quirky sense of the absurd.  She demonstrates a deep and profound grasp of a truism overlooked by many writers: humor and horror make excellent bedfellows.  When gore is undercut by laughs and fright by grins, it makes for a delectable recipe, sure to please.  "Hell Notes" has good pacing, a novel storyline, and dexterous prose.  But most importantly, it's funny. 

Definitely recommended.