This ambitious collection of short stories strives to creatively imagine all manner of worlds beyond the physical grasp of humanity.
The introduction to this volume states: “Many say the best stories always begin, ‘A man in Florida.’ ” The diverse tales found here are loosely organized into seven sections, all of which have equivocal connections to Palm Beach County, Florida. The first section, entitled “Historical Fiction,” contains two stories: “A What If Story—The Long Voyage of Richard III,” which considers the unfolding of events should the monarch have survived Bosworth Field and made an escape to America; and “Edward the Martyr: England’s First Boy-King,” which imagines the interrogation of Katherine Howard, a young servant, who tells the tale of the king’s murder. These are the strongest two tales in the collection, which involves a cunning unpicking and restitching of history on the writer’s part and thoroughly believable characters. Subsequent chapters address radically incongruous themes. Taking a Janus-faced view, the section entitled “The Time Before Time” looks back to an age “before the humans on the planet invented time,” prior to fast-forwarding to “A Look into the Future, Feudal America,” a group of stories in which “everything falls apart and the one proud nation becomes a collection of feudal states.” Thematic overload ensues when Breeden (Tales Under the Palms, 2012, etc.) devotes further sections to tales that evoke a descent into hell and others that describe aliens. The result is an ill-conceived hodgepodge of ideas and genres, developing into disappointing narratives that lean heavily on clichés—the descriptions of aliens as “cat-people” being a case in point: “They evolved from cats, and are called Homo-felines (cat man) and process [sic] many cat-like qualities. They have pointed ears and two long eyelashes growing out of their eyebrows that resemble the whiskers on a cat.” The author’s “apologia” at the beginning of each tale confirms the awkward nature of the collection: “Despite the warnings from my professors at FAU, I am embarking on a story of what if Richard III had survived Bosworth Field.” The projected scope of this book is admirable, yet it attempts too much. Sadly, the best stories don’t always begin “A man in Florida.”
Meandering, wildly idiosyncratic, and fanciful tales.