Matthews’ marvelously entertaining debut short story collection is equal parts hysterically zany and forebodingly dark.
Matthews presents the best of his short-form work in a debut collection that is as funny and witty as it is scary and menacing. Nearly all of the stories have a fantastical bent, and each contains an ending successfully surprising or unexpectedly poignant. Several common themes appear—death, government and authority, smoking—giving the collection a cohesive, complete feel. In “The Black Tornado,” a man’s deceased father visits him in the form of a tornado; the dead convene at a bowling alley for a meet and greet in “Johnny Heart Attack”; and “Ghostlike” follows a spirit who leaves notes in a shopping mall. Elsewhere in the collection, an authoritarian regime takes over a retirement community and builds a wall. In “Government Psychic,” a government-hired psychic works at the DMV, and “Bullets Have No Effect” features a criminal who receives a lethal injection but just won’t die. The straightforward, short sentences can grow tiresomely simple, as in “To Tell About It,” when a reporter who interviews people about near-death experiences explains his job saying, “I put out ads. I talk to people. I talk to people who know people. I meet for coffee, for dinner, over beers. I bring my voice recorder. I ask people how they almost died, and they tell me,” but the author succeeds at telling tales that pack either a salient message or uproarious punch line (sometimes both). Matthews’ collection is ideal for those who are able to willingly suspend disbelief and enter a world that is quirky, ugly and uproariously entertaining. It’s also a good choice for those who like their musings on mortality served with black humor and irony.
An eccentric collection of fantastical, funny and puzzling tales.