The Unfinished World and Other Stories by Amber Sparks
Liveright Publishing: 1/25/16
eBook review copy; 240 pages
The Unfinished World and Other Stories by Amber Sparks is a very highly recommended collection of 19 short stories set in worlds that are slightly askew.
The writing is excellent. In descriptive, precise prose Sparks manages
to convey depth and meaning in the fable-like stories, many of which are
very brief. There is no overall theme to the collection, which makes
each imaginative selection a gem that stands alone. This quietly asks
the reader to consider and pondered each selection separately, on its
own merit. This is a strong collection and I appreciated and savored
The Janitor in Space: A woman who works as a janitor in space believes
there is there a right way to atone for the past, to rid yourself of
The Lizzie Borden Jazz Babies: Twins do everything together, until one takes a different course and the other wants revenge.
The Cemetery for Lost Faces: The life of Clarence and Louise, a brother
and sister whose parents tragically died. "It just goes to show, people
said later. It just goes to show how fairy
tales always stop too soon in the telling. Others said it was never a
fairy tale at all. Anyone could see that. They were all too lovely, too
obviously doomed. But the wisest said, that’s exactly what a fairy tale
is. The happily-ever-after is just a false front. It hides the hungry
The Logic of the Loaded Heart: Questions to determine the value of
John's life. "If John is three, and John’s mother is six times his age,
how old was
John’s mother when John was conceived in the back of Al Neill’s pickup
truck after a Styx concert in Milwaukee? If John’s parents spend 100
times zero days being actual parents to John, how many days’ total is
that? Does your answer change if John’s mother sometimes bought him Mr
Pibb and lottery tickets when she stopped at the gas station on her way
home from work? Extra credit: Please calculate the probability that at
his mother’s current age, John will drop out of school and work in a
burger joint while playing lead guitar in a heavy metal band called The
Thirteen Ways of Destroying a Painting: A time traveler tries thirteen
different actions to prevent a painter from creating a specific work of
Lancelot in the Lost Places of the World: "Lancelot has been summoned out of sleep to find a secret kingdom."
And the World Was Crowded with Things That Meant Love: A couple who met
in person only once exchange gifts of devotion over their lifetime.
Birds with Teeth: Marsh and Cope, who used to be friends, are rival
paleontologists. "It really began at Haddonfield, after he pointed out
mistake with the Elasmosaurus platyurus. The head is on the tail, he
told the team in private."
For These Humans Who Cannot Fly: A man's love for his wife inspires his
life's work, building death houses. "Every death is a love story. It’s
the goodbye part, but the love is
still there, wide as the world. When my wife died, I began to understand
Take Your Daughter to the Slaughter: Father's take their daughters on a hunt to kill werewolves.
We Were Holy Once: The Benders are a family who travel the country with their daughter, Doctor Katie, who is a healer.
La Belle de Nuit, La Belle de Jour: There is mythical trouble for seven
brothers and their sister when a witch moves into the kingdom and
marries their father.
The Men and Women Like Him: Hugh is a Cleaner who has to stop time pirates from changing the course of history.
Things You Should Know About Cassandra Dee: Seven facts about Cassie, an
ugly girl who can see bad things that will happen in the future.
The Fires of Western Heaven: Reflections about the aftermath of war.
The Process of Human Decay: What happens after a man dies.
The Fever Librarian: "From the Eternal Library’s Official Employee Handbook: The brain of the
Fever Librarian should be made mostly of melancholy. The Fever Librarian
should wear black bile in the veins. The Fever Librarian should be an
unmarried woman with a soft, drowned heart, and a choleric disposition.
She should be pale and thin, with a look that hints at Perpetual Anguish
of the Soul. She should resemble someone’s grandmother, someone we have
known for ages in the abstract. Dependable. Invisible."
The Unfinished World: This titular novella follows the separate lives as
two future lover, Set and Inge, grow up and eventually meet in the
The Sleepers: "Ancient dreams cling like crumbs to the mouths of the sleepers. They
mutter and twitch, chasing after phantom women, fragments of words,
half-drunk goblets of wine. This is what the sleepers find outside of
history: a weakness in repose for which there is no cure but dreaming."
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy
of Liveright Publishing for review