This is a collection of 3 dark novellas, one by Brian Hodge, the remaining two by Gerard Houarner. I requested an ARC of this volume from Brian Hodge. As a fan of his work, I had to have it! Up until I started reading this, I was not familiar with Gerard Houarner at all. All of these stories were very strange, each in their own way.
First up: In the Negative Spaces by Brian Hodge. This was a weird tale about a young woman, Wendy, fleeing to her brother's hoity toity apartment in NYC. What she is fleeing becomes clear later, but why her NYC is not quite the NYC we know and love-is never fully explained, which is fine by me. Anyway, Wendy discovers a strange dream diary in the apartment and realizes it belonged to an ex-girlfriend of her brother's; a woman who just up and disappeared. What follows is a strange adventure with Wendy and the doorman of the building....and then it morphed into something completely different. I loved it! A line from the third story "The Fear Puppet" summed it up perfectly. "A nightmare spilling into the waking world. " This seemed to be a recurring theme in this collection.
The second novella, Burning Bright in the Invisible Night, was just plain weird. We are dropped into the home of Isabella and Hugh, and things are very wrong with the world.They both try to continue life as normally as possible, with both of them going to work. However, their workplaces are not the same as they used to be and probably never will be again. As the story continues, all kinds of strange happenings occur until the reader begins to get a more clear idea about what is going on. My conclusion was that this was the best zombie novella, (with NO zombies), that I've ever read! I was gratified to learn, through the author's note at the end, that my take was correct. However-I think that this story could work on different levels also-depending on how the reader chooses to see things. I think that either way, this story would be viewed as a successful and entertaining one.
The third novella confused me quite a bit. The Fear Puppet was a messed up story. I had trouble trying to figure out what the hell was going on. My enjoyment of the tale began when I gave up trying to figure it out and just let it happen. I enjoy ambiguous stories, or tales where everything is not explained, (in most cases, I LOVE them). In this case I do wish a few more of the holes were filled in. As it stands, I did like this story and I did see some correlations in there between the real world and the world in the story. For instance, the next to the last line: "He'd never voted for change, always for security." This put me in mind of the whole Patriot Act thing that has been going on in the US for quite a while now. Whether that was the intent of the sentence, I don't know, but that's what it brought to mind for me. (I considered including a quote about freedom, security and fear, due to the title of this story, but decided against it, because again-this might just be me.) This story is thought provoking and while not as straightforward as the other two novellas here, still worth a read, in my opinion.
Overall, I enjoyed this collection as I was all but certain that I would. I was surprised to read that Gerard Houarner has had over 280 stories published over the last 40 years. How has he escaped my attentions? I will try to track down more of his work in the future. Regarding Mr. Hodge-he already has my attention and it's high time you gave him some of yours, don't you think?
This book is due out on August 7th and I recommend it!
*A free e-ARC was provided to me in exchange for an honest review. This is it.*