A debut collection of fabulistic short fiction that offers readers a series of bewildering landscapes.
This book of 15 short stories may disorient readers as it ushers them from one curious setting to the next. In “A Million Things,” for example, Filimowicz progresses through a somewhat academic disclaimer about memoirs, a childhood memory about going to see the pope and an imagined Greek myth of Dionysus’ brother, Dionysovich, the god of vodka. Readers do occasionally encounter lines that help illuminate the rest of the text, as in the title story (“[O]ur particular outpost was jettisoned into free undefined space, like some metaphorical billiard ball in a hypothetical science lesson, our coinage instantly without currency, our borders in dispute, our language unofficial.”). Overall, however, the text tends toward the self-conscious and heavy-handed. Sentences often convey ambience more than story or character, and it may be easy for readers to get lost in the stories’ peculiar, often unapproachable worlds. Stories often bleed into each other; “Apocalyptic Triptych” and “Back Roads,” for example, have a technologically enhanced, post-apocalyptic landscape in common, as well as a very similar voice and tone, which may make it difficult for readers to distinguish among their different characters and the particulars of their imaginary worlds. Some stories employ invented, undefined jargon without narrative explanation, and read like fanciful imaginings without context. However, the strongest story, “The Amarylis Sluys,” written in the voice of a widow describing her husband’s life aboard a freight vessel, possesses a perfectly understated plot, energetic character descriptions, and deft, robust prose in equal measure. With its aphorisms and air of myth, readers will easily recognize why it was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. However, its bright light stands in contrast to the majority of the stories here.
An earnest but flawed short story collection.