A collection spotlights 14 tales of madness, the possible existence of extraterrestrials, and inescapable fate.
The mere title of “Imminent Doom and His Own Demise” is indicative of all the author’s stories, which are decidedly darker in tone than Frode’s (A Dream of India, 2015) preceding book. In “Doom,” Victor’s torn by his wife’s suicide and is certain that both his and the world’s extinctions are inevitable. It likewise features a recurrent theme among the tales, one of a typically cruel destiny. “On the Stick,” for example, follows robotics engineer Switch, who picks up hitchhiking art student Art, only for the two to cross paths later in a startling turn. Similarly, in the title story, spiritual teacher Penelope bequeaths to her student Caldero a ring that may explain the mystery of the cosmos, while Al-kaid Al-Uqdah of “The Seven Lights” has seemingly been chosen (by the universe, perhaps) as owner of a book and potential key to alien contact. The stories repeatedly tread murky, sometimes-horrific territory. In the memorable “Token,” magician Theodore ignores a warning to steer clear of the bad-spirits–laden oak thicket behind his duplex and fashions a wand from a sapling with frightening results. “The Faithful,” too, is violent—earning a caution from the author in his introduction—but undeniably potent, a brief tale of groups of varying religions suffering persecution and much worse. There are, however, signs of optimism, like the woman in “A Cup of Coffee,” whose kind gesture for a homeless man could lead to an unusual but benevolent payback. Frode also injects a good deal more humor in this collection. Character names, for one, are frequently playful, including the conspicuously christened Destiny (“On the Stick”), plastic surgeon Dr. Cutter (“Knife Skills”), and head of Archaeological Collections and Archives, Archibald Richland VanDigguer (“Collections”). As in the author’s earlier work, his narratives are illustrative, even with minimal action. The contemplative protagonist of “Chayton’s Sky” primarily stands still, “watching the cloud slowly and ponderously writhe and quietly collapse little-by-little eventually into the chaos of the accompanying cloud masses alongside it or into the sky itself.”
Often grim but always ruminative stories that turn out to be as eccentric as they are indelible.