A captivating assemblage of philosophical and meditative tales.




From the Lynch's Corner Series series , Vol. 16

A collection of short stories that revolve around the history of a small town in Kentucky. 

Summers’ (Ruadan, 2017, etc.) new collection of 20 tales is bound by a common locale—Lynch’s Corner, Kentucky—and covers its history from 1893 to 1986. The stories all share an artfully crafted atmosphere of austerity as they unblinkingly confront the harsh realities of life. In the first story, “Fair Game,” two close friends, Carson York and Thomas Mason, travel from Lynch’s Corner to Chicago to see the World’s Fair in 1893. After Thomas suddenly vanishes, Carson discovers that he’s not only dead—he’s also been sold to a hospital by a “resurrector,” a collector of corpses. Although it’s likely that Thomas was murdered, the hospital administrator recommends that Carson go home with a story that his friend died of a “sudden illness.” In “Rite of Fire,” set in 1898, Lynch’s Corner deputy sheriff John Reichmuth learns that a local woman, Bernice Caraway, was burned to death for witchcraft—because she simply used herbal remedies to heal the sick. However, it’s revealed that the men who killed her had other motives as well, and they all suffer mysterious accidents in the wake of her death. In these tales, Summers often provides profound meditations on the meaning of history and the lure of the past. For example, in “Blazing Noon,” set in 1904, Donnie greets information about his ancestors with a compelling mix of curiosity and skepticism: “I believe we chase the shadows of youth across the years, throughout our adult lives. And we never quite grasp that the joys belonged to someone else. We all change.” Throughout this collection, the author’s prose is self-assured and free of needless contrivance, and he shows considerable, nuanced skill at plot and character development. Overall, this is an excellent example of regional literature that offers readers a sense of universality, mined from concrete elements of everyday life.

A captivating assemblage of philosophical and meditative tales.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72421-410-2

Page Count: 222

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2018

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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