UNDERGROUND STORIES by Rosalie H. Contino

UNDERGROUND STORIES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A collection of short fiction primarily depicting miniature portraits of emergency.

Contino (Born to Create, 2016, etc.) contributed to and edited this collection of nine stories and one poem. The grouping is an eclectic one; the thematic twine that binds them seems to be their snapshot character. Most entries commence abruptly, in medias res, and immerse the reader in a brief capsule of time that obliquely references its context. For example, in “Heirs of Justice,” written by Contino, the reader enters a courtroom drama revolving around a drunk-driving catastrophe. What she presents is more a scene than a story in full bloom, its emotional power driven by implication rather than meticulous description. Likewise, Craig Sodaro’s “See Jane Run!” depicts a mother and child on the run from an amorphous threat in a dystopian future suggested rather than cataloged. The faceless nature of the threat only makes their pursuer more menacing. In most of the stories, though, the brevity—and the paucity of both plot and character development—dampens any sense of emergency. In “Code” by Carre Gardner, a story that isn’t quite two pages long, a nurse races to save a life and imagines the patient’s perspective. So little is known about those involved that the crisis remains remote and abstract and reads like the end of a much longer plot never shared. The first story in the collection, “Nothing but the Best,” again by Contino, suffers from narrative stinginess, too, more a snippet of a conversation than a tale, like eavesdropping on a quick exchange between strangers. By far, the best story is “The Fall” by E.E. Symolon, which captures the strange cohabitation of fear and boredom many experienced living under Nazi occupation in France. Despite some flashes of clever writing, this collection feels like an assemblage of unfinished drafts or excerpts from longer works.

Moody stories stymied by underdevelopment. 

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2016
Page count: 79pp
Publisher: LitFire Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
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