Twenty-two otherworldly short stories that are equal parts Poe, Lovecraft, King, and Twilight Zone.
Prolific author, translator, and professor Evenson (Critical Studies/CalArts; Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, 2018, etc.) offers up a fistful of new nightmares culled from years of publications in literary magazines and horror anthologies that are well-poised to send chills up the most fearless of spines. Take the opener, “No Matter Which Way We Turned,” which begins, “No matter which way we turned the girl, she didn’t have a face.” There are certainly a few prominent themes here—anyone who puckers at the idea of a “skin suit” will certainly be horror-struck by the stories “Leaking Out,” “Sisters,” and the aptly titled “Shirts and Skins.” Movies also play a big role: We get a house haunted by a filmmaker on a budget in “Room Tone” and other behind-the-camera horror stories in “Line of Sight” and “Lather of Flies.” Although Evenson’s mimicry of gothic terrors from the past is first-rate, he also has a chameleonic ability to dart between eras and styles, as evidenced by the excellent “A Disappearance,” which evokes Gillian Flynn’s talent for misdirection, and “Lord of the Vats,” which echoes the existential angst found in writers like Cory Doctorow and Daniel Suarez. It seems that no matter where Evenson turns his attention, be it to something mundane like “Glasses” or a wetwork fragment like “The Cardiacs,” he conjures a remarkable sense of paranoia, anxiety, and dread. While terrors abound here, Evenson can occasionally summon some humor, too, as in the satire “Trigger Warnings”: “Caution: ghosts. Caution: flaming ghosts (as in ghost on fire, not flamboyantly gay ghosts). Caution: gay ghosts. Caution: spiders.”
Evenson’s little nightmares are deftly crafted, stylistically daring, and surprisingly emotional.