Thursday, November 7, 2013

Shorties: Short Reviews of Short Story Collections

If there is one thing I've discovered about myself in 2013, it's that I totally sucked at writing reviews. Sure, I also sucked at reading, clocking in at the lowest book count I've had since I started tracking back in 2009, when I birthed this blog. But I only reviewed about half of what books I did lay my eyes on. Ew.

In an attempt to walk into 2014 with a clear review-conscious, I plan on dropping a few posts like this one - short review recaps of all the books that for whatever reason - too busy, too lost for words, too de-movitated - I should've reviewed and just didn't.

Today, I'm introducing you to a slew of shorties (read: short stories) that I've devoured over the past few months. Without meaning to, I believe I read more short story collections this year than in any previous one. Not that I'm complaining; I find short story collections, especially those that are linked or themed, quite refreshing. And the ones you'll find here are no exception.

Have you read these? In a mad rush of 4 star reviews, I bring some of the best of what I've read in the second half of the year:

I Am by Ben Tanzer
Read 7/11/13 - 7/12/13
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended, 'specially to those who dig on pop culture icons (and not-so-icons)
99 pages (Ebook)

Ben Tanzer takes on celebrity has-beens, almost-weres, and still-ares in this saucy collection of stories told from each individual perspective. Some stories connected with me immediately - Vanilla Ice, Richard Simmons, Corey Feldman, Darth Vadar - while others floated out in over-my-head land because I simply lacked the name recognition. That didn't lessen the impact of the collection, though. Tanzer brilliantly birthed each persona, forced their words up off the page, and made each one come alive much like a puppeteer brings life to his marionettes.

A quick, enticing collection, clocking in at just under 100 pages, that demonstrates a brand new side of Ben.

This Time, While We're Awake by Heather Fowler
Read 8/8/13 - 8/22/13
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended, 'specially to those who like a little WTF fiction
328 Pages (Ebook)

Heather Fowler has taken literature to places I hadn't known it could go. A practice baby for expecting parents, that looks and acts just like your own baby would (so creepy); drugged breeders who are awakened for one day of copulation and impregnation, then put back to sleep while the baby gestates (so freaky); a town that allows an alien species to harvest one of them per visit in return for their continued protection against the assumed horrors that exist on the other side of the walls that seal them off from the rest of the world (so scary).

A wickedly dark and haunting collection that shows its readers an alternative look at the future of humanity; a deep, devastating spiral into strange and frightening circumstances.

Why God Why by Matt Rowan
Read 9/11/13 - 9/18/13
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended, 'specially to fans of little bizarro bites
155 Pages (Ebook)

To crack open this collection is to read about the dangers of falling in love with a hat, happy pills for screaming children, and cooling your jets in coldsville. It'll also have you reading about cutting off a lb of your own flesh, baking a cake clone, and behaving as a bat …

To crack open this collection is to drown your brain in fantastical, bizarro-fictional worlds that will have you wishing you could crawl inside them and hang around with them for a bit longer, because they live and die in the blink of an eye. 
To crack open this collection is to bang your fists against your head asking yourself WHY GOD WHY haven’t I picked up this collection sooner!

Jimmy Lagowski Saves the World by Pat Pujolas
Read 10/5/13 - 10/8/13
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended, 'specially to fans of interconnected stories
198 Pages 

What initially appear as fun, and sometimes quite odd, unconnected short stories soon begin to cross paths with each other and weave themselves into an even more fun, and incredibly more odd, novel-in-stories.

You can tell Pat had a lot of fun building this world in which a horribly burned and suicidal young man finds himself saved by jury duty, of all things, and very possibly possessed by an alien entity which resides millions of miles away from Earth. Kickstarted by a seemingly random act of violence, we are thrown, time and time again, into and out of the townspeople's lives, sneaking a peek here and there, as Pat sees fit, until the individual stories comes crashing together in an ending that will make you thank your lucky stars you hung in for the long haul.

Zombie Sharks with Metal Teeth by Stephen Graham Jones
Read 10/11/13 - 10/30/13
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to fans of the bizarro, because here there be loads of it
161 Pages (Ebook)

If ever a title both caught my attention and caused me confusion, this is it! I've never read anything by Jones previously, and I certainly plan to rectify that in the very near future. The writing, people. The writing is phenomenal in this incredibly fucked up kind of way.

Dude's got a great way of working out the bizarre to make it seem just normal enough... and oh my GAWD the opening story with the dad and his son. It pulled every fucking heart string I had and I wasn't sure I could continue reading the rest of the stories if there was a chance that they were going to be even remotely similar but the curiosity was killing me so I threw myself headfirst into it all.

Jones is like a mad scientist, rolling up his sleeves to play elbow-deep with his creations before strangling them quietly to death and burying them deep in the ground where they'll dissolve into dry and brittle bones with our memories of them buried right there, alongside.

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