A debut collection mixes horror and sci-fi—short stories laden with bizarre creatures, life on other planets, and homicidal proclivities.
In the title story, a doctor gets lost on his way to visit a sickly girl residing in a small, unknown village. It sufficiently captures the ominous atmosphere prevalent in many of the book’s grim tales, which typically feature an intangible fear. For example, the protagonist of “In the Garden” takes a train ride home only to discover his town of destination isn’t one of the stops and the engineer hasn’t even heard of it. This gloomy mood carries over to the sci-fi stories as well, most of which occupy the book’s latter half. In “The Worms of Titan,” scientists of the late 22nd century discover wormlike organisms on the planet Titan. But what’s truly unsettling is that the creatures are inexplicably identical to worms that have been on Earth for millennia. Biswas’ writing is unassuming but arresting: “Bolts of lightning shot across the darkness and, out of the macabre silence that hung over the valley, I heard a horrible wail.” He often establishes his narratives with traditional genre settings: a lighthouse in “The Crystal”; a castle in “Tramp”; and an outpost on that familiar red planet in “2038: A Mars Odyssey.” The memorable tales, however, trek into dark, sometimes-surreal territory. The main character in “Sedgefield’s Diary,” for one, is a Boston accountant who obsessively chronicles his humdrum life on an hourly basis. After he misses an entire day of recording his activities, his diary fills the pages seemingly on its own. Likewise, “The Lake of Flies” is, at first glance, a conventional tale of murder. But the killer and victim are immediately revealed, with the story then centering on the anticipation of the forthcoming homicide and its aftermath (Will the murderer pay for his crime?). The collection ends with “Puff,” which, contrary to its title, generates an explosive conclusion.
Consistently eerie tales that readers aren’t likely to forget.