The Glassy Burning Floor of Hell: Stories by Brian Evenson
I am a big fan of Brian Evenson’s short stories, having read A Collapse of Horses and Song For the Unraveling of the World. He exists in that space that perfectly defines weird fiction. It’s not quite horror or science fiction or fantasy but a great amalgam of them all. This book isn’t officially out until August, but I came across a post on r/horrorlit linking to Edelweiss where they were offering a free copy-protected Kindle download. It definitely appears that the text isn’t officially formatted entirely yet. However, the writing is so good any visual blips fade away. The stories here are just long enough, never overstaying their welcome and unsettling the readers perfectly.
In “Palisade,” a young man and his irrational homicidal uncle go into hiding on a lake island after the uncle kills a man. There is a house on the island built out of the back of the building. Everything appears to indicate the desire to lock something in, but of course, these two cross the threshold. In “The Shimmering Wall,” a city’s inhabitants reach into a strange interdimensional wall to scavenge random objects to sell. Shadows on the other side will sometimes pull people through, never to be seen again. The narrator relates the story of when this happened to his parents and what brought him back to the wall as a husband years later. In “Come Up,” an unfaithful husband watches as his wife dives into a lake, never to resurface. He is seen as her possible killer, but there’s no evidence he did anything. The man becomes haunted, and it seems his wife wants him to join her. These stories perfectly set the atmosphere and deliver sharply written horror stories that are a delight to read.
Burning Girls and Other Stories by Veronica Schanoes
I had read the hype about this short story collection and really wanted to like it, but I found it a slog to get through in many moments. My biggest problem was that many of the stories felt like the author made about a social issue. I sympathize with her worldview and share pretty much all of it. However, I didn’t see these stories as weaving those ideas into their narratives skillfully. It felt more like a moral hammer being struck across the reader’s head. The collection has an excellent start with “Among the Thorns,” a folktale of a Jewish woman seeking revenge on the murder of her father, a peddler who passed through a virulently anti-semitic village. It reads like an adult fairy tale and is done very well. When the stories are in this vein, they work best, but once you reach the middle point of the collection, I felt the quality began to decline. I like to reference Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black as a perfect blend of identity and speculative fiction. That collection was right in my wheelhouse, while Burning Girls just felt incredibly uneven.
Neighbors by Thomas Berger
After watching the film adaptation of this movie last year, I became curious about the novel it was based on. I was familiar with Thomas Berger but had only ever seen the Little Big Man movie, never having read any of his work. I decided to dive into Neighbors and see how it compared to the film. I was surprised at how faithful the movie was to the book. The narrative takes place over less than 24 hours as Earl Keese is terrorized by his new neighbors Harry & Ramona. This takes place in a heightened version of reality where Earl is just as absurd as his neighbors in a much more submissive manner. Each moment between these people doesn’t seem too outrageous but taken in succession, within minutes of each other, it becomes a cacophony of insanity. Just like the film, there’s a nightmarish quality to what is happening, but Earl is a frustrating character because the decisions he makes are just as illogical as Harry & Ramona. We get much more detail than the film and more extensive moments with Garvey, the local tow truck driver/taxi driver/seeming to do a little of everything. It was an enjoyable & funny read, but I can definitely see how some readers might be turned off by the style and pacing.