I have enjoyed the author’s work in the past, but this book of short stories, not so much. The first three of the nine stories, Alphinland, Revenant and Dark Lady, were connected with common characters. All of the stories contained themes about lonely, unhappy people, perhaps misfits, who blamed others for the way their lives worked out. They were disappointed and wanted revenge on those who symbolized their pain, real or imaginary and relished the idea of schadenfreude. Madness ruled in one form or another in each of the stories, although most of the time, it was in a benign rather than a malignant form. There were supernatural and psychic elements in the stories, even a touch of the horror genre, but although they were creative and original in their ideas, they were not compelling enough to capture my full attention, and at one point, I almost entertained the idea of not finishing the book.
All of the stories had some interesting aspects, but the first seven of the nine stories did not fully engage my curiosity. I didn’t enjoy a lot of the crude allusions and they seemed to fall flat at the end. The last two however, Stone Mattress and Torching the Dusties, redeemed the book for me. They left me wondering about their themes and connected me to the characters more fully. That said, I did not like most of the characters in the book, with the exception of the elderly man and woman, Wilma and Tobias, in the last story, Torching the Dusties. They were sympathetic individuals.
In the end, I wondered if the book was not actually a sad commentary on the state of mankind and the human mind today and, ultimately, on the state of the world. We rush to conclusions, concentrate on political correctness and give little thought to the real issues confronting us, the issues that concern life and death, the issues that concern the value of life itself.