Delightfully eerie tales from the dark side.



Imaginative stories elevated by creative renderings of tropes from genre fiction.

Debut author Gonzales, executive director of The Austin Bat Cave, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center, offers up a collection of 18 sparely constructed stories, rife with ingenuity and beholden to few rules. The opening story, “Pilot, Copilot, Writer,” finds a journalist attempting to make sense of the fact that his hijacked plane has been circling the Dallas skyline for two decades. The title story is about a scientist who, after shrinking his wife to nearly microscopic size, finds himself at war with her. This leads to laugh-out-loud lines like this one, about his wife’s paramour: “So what else could I do but cover him in honey and seed and then feed him to the bird?” “One-Horned & Wild-Eyed” explores the rivalry that explodes between two friends—over the unicorn they’re keeping in a backyard shed. Still other stories infuse real emotion into nightmarish scenarios. “Life on Capra II” depicts a futuristic solider who pines for his lost love, even as he blasts away at swamp monsters and killer robots. In “All of Me,” we meet the zombie lurking inside an office drone, who wishes for nothing more than a date with a married co-worker and to devour the obnoxious guy down the hall. Others, such as “Wolf!” and “Escape from the Mall,” are more traditional takes on the monsters of our nightmares. But then Gonzales nails the reader with a roundhouse kick like “Farewell, Africa,” about a famous speech delivered in concert with the actual sinking of continents. The author also peppers his collection with five sinister obituaries that are quite fun, if superfluous to this inspired string of off-key hits.

Delightfully eerie tales from the dark side.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59448-604-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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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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What's most worthy in this hefty, three-part volume of still more Hemingway is that it contains (in its first section) all the stories that appeared together in the 1938 (and now out of print) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. After this, however, the pieces themselves and the grounds for their inclusion become more shaky. The second section includes stories that have been previously published but that haven't appeared in collections—including two segments (from 1934 and 1936) that later found their way into To Have and Have Not (1937) and the "story-within-a-story" that appeared in the recent The garden of Eden. Part three—frequently of more interest for Flemingway-voyeurs than for its self-evident merits—consists of previously unpublished work, including a lengthy outtake ("The Strange Country") from Islands in the Stream (1970), and two poor-to-middling Michigan stories (actually pieces, again, from an unfinished novel). Moments of interest, but luckiest are those who still have their copies of The First Forty-Nine.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1987

ISBN: 0684843323

Page Count: 666

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987

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