Hofmann (Helena, 2012) calls this book “a showcase of how my writing has evolved.” It ranges from early stories, which are almost completely devoid of character development, to more mature work. The best tales include “Snow,” a short winter’s tale filled with nice imagery (“The snow covered swing set and slide made Anna think of a sinking ship’s masts, and the color of the red-orange sun on the ground was the fire consuming it”) and a natural, yet horrifying ending; “The Forest,” written in a fairy-tale style; “Gray,” which features nicely developed characters who meet disaster on their way to a meeting in a future dystopian America; “The Wicked,” a crisp, unpredictable story about a deputy as he makes his rounds through a town disintegrating due to an unknown, evil force; and “The Park,” certainly one of the most original tales, about a young writer learning the hard way he does not, in fact, know everything. Many of the other stories, however, are essentially good ideas that might have been improved through tighter prose and better character and plot development. Often, they’re more vignettes than stories, with the twisted, surprise outcomes rendered lackluster and predictable simply because readers never have the opportunity to care about the protagonists. In “Crew MJOP420,” for instance, six stereotypical space characters die trying to betray an intergalactic court; the complex situation and interplay of their motivations are more suited to a novel or novella, and are far too complicated for the five pages Hofmann affords them. Still, budding writers may find observing the evolution of the author’s writing style helpful on their own literary journeys.
Hard-core horror and sci-fi readers will likely enjoy the more original tales in this story collection.