Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Unfinished World and Other Stories

The Unfinished World and Other Stories by Amber Sparks
Liveright Publishing: 1/25/16
eBook review copy; 240 pages
ISBN-13: 9781631490903

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 each selection. 


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 sorrow.

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 darkness inside."

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 Slaughterhouse Four."

Thirteen Ways of Destroying a Painting: A time traveler tries thirteen different actions to prevent a painter from creating a specific work of art.
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 Cope’s dreadful 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 this."

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 1920s.

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 purposes.

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