Five short stories explore the borderlands between life and death.
Waide’s (Where Do We Go From Here?, 2016, etc.) collection focuses on “making sense of the Self while drowning in chaos”—in essence, a theme in all literature. But the author chooses a particular style and tone to examine these ideas. In his first and most developed story, “Weightless,” Foster grieves for Andrea by pulling himself and others into the space between life and death. He’s a psychiatrist who pushes people off building tops, believing that in those deadly moments “they became absolutely connected with life, more than they had ever been.” As Foster struggles with the “dark matter”—the balance between everything and nothing—the story shifts between first- and third-person point of view. “Weightless” is intense, philosophically and stylistically. Waide maintains a fast pace while raising existential questions. “Cold Sore” employs similar techniques. Max tells his partner, Martha, that he won’t join her on a road trip because he doesn’t want “to be around people right now.” He knows he’s egotistical and briefly “started to feel something” but stays home. Soon a cold sore on his lip grows into a surreal, flesh-eating monster and Max must face “i,” himself and his selfishness. Waide again plays with point of view to show his characters’ inner demons: “i punches me in the face,” says Max. But as the cold sore and the story grow more grotesque, readers may wish for a reprieve through deeper character and plot development. Three shorter stories also deal with life through death. “The Pit,” just one page, involves a child who lives and dies in a literal pit with “a tiny yellow circle overhead.” “Man with a Knife” describes a household on a rolling platform with no walls; the family is confronted by a vagabond wielding a butter knife. Both tales are intriguing and dreamlike but underdeveloped. In the final story, “Sagacity,” stock characters debate whether a heart transplant should go to Einstein or a rabid cat—a conversation Waide makes surprisingly intricate.
A consistent theme and strong voice carry this collection but some tales need greater complexity in plot and characters.