Zhiguai:Chinese True Tales of the Paranormal and Glitches in the Matrix

Translated by Yi Izzy Yu & John Yu Branscum

‘Zhiguai’ roughly translates as ‘true weird tales’ and that is exactly what you get in this book. Fifteen tales of real encounters with the unexplained – the titular ‘glitches in the matrix’. The stories contained here vary massively from spooky precognition dreams, strange visions and trips to other worlds right through to more standard hauntings.

I have to admit I’m a massive sceptic about this sort of stuff. Nothing remotely weird has happened to me personally – unless you count coincidental meet ups with friends – and I take ghost stories and the like with a massive pinch of salt. However, people I know and trust are adamant these things happen so perhaps I should keep more of an open mind.

Reading this book was surprisingly scary and moving. I found myself thinking about the stories for days afterwards and told my mates a few of them in the pub. I couldn’t help but wonder what effect the events described would have on a person. This book doesn’t go into any of that, but rather just presents the barest bones to get you to the meat of the story.

The matter of fact way the tales are told help ground them in reality and make them feel all the spookier as a result. It also allows the reader to draw their own conclusions as to what might have happened. This style might grate on some, but for me it added to the stories and made them far more credible. From the kid who finds a different version of his mum, through to the kid who regresses three years overnight, each story had more than enough to make me shiver. There’s one about a baby that made me cry – it’s pretty grim reading. The only story that left me cold was about some cats, but then I had no sympathy for the teller of that tale: the little shit got what he deserved.

I’m not sure the book did enough to cure me of my sceptism, but it definitely put a dent in that armour. It is surprising how relatable these tales are – this could easily have happened in the UK. That’s the overall point of the book, of course: despite our differences, our experiences of the supernatural are very similar. I could go into more detail about each of the stories, but I don’t want to spoil anything. This is an excellent read, guaranteed to unnerve and unsettle you.

Highly recommended.

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