Genre: SF/Fantasy/Horror | Format: Ebook (review copy) | Publisher: Seventh Star Press | Publication date: April 21st 2014 | My rating: 4/5
Flowing like mists and shadows through the Appalachian Mountains come 18 tales from the mind of Jason Sizemore. Weaving together elements of southern gothic, science fiction, fantasy, horror, the supernatural, and much more, this diverse collection of short stories brings you an array of characters who must face accountability, responsibility, and, more ominously, retribution.
To my mind, the best anthologies include, if not a diverse range of authors, then certainly a diverse range of stories. Irredeemable is a collection of one author’s stories, but it absolutely fits the second bill. There are common themes – there’s nothing particularly bright and cheerful about any of them, as the book’s title suggests – but nonetheless each story brings something different to the mix. Check out my pick of the best, below the cut!
There were a few stories in this anthology that I suspect are going to stay with me for a good while yet, and for a number of reasons. One is “Caspar”, the first of the stories, in which a man who kills his wife and daughter at Christmas is told a very familiar story, with very serious intent… I’m not a particularly religious person but this one gave me chills, as well as making me rethink the story within this story with what’s probably more interest than I’ve ever had in it. Good work, Jason.
The second of the stories that stuck with me is “The Sleeping Quartet”, which sees a man suffering from severe sleep apnea seeking what seems to be experimental therapy to cure it. So far, so ordinary, as is Jack – but as his first night of the experiment begins he soon finds out that he’s walked into something very, very… not ordinary. The nightmarish account of what happens to Jack, told firsthand, genuinely gave me the creeps. It can be difficult to hit the right notes in storytelling with an approach like this; not everybody will be creeped out by the same things, after all – but Sizemore does it well here. My sympathies to anyone who’s ever had to wear a sleep apnea mask…
Lastly, my favourite of these stories is one of the shorter, simpler ones – at least it seems that way upon first glance. “Yellow Warblers” is kind of a sci-fi story (there’s an alien involved), and yet it’s not – this one has much more to do with humans, and that regrettable aspect of “humanity” that seems to demand that we be an enormously ‘righteous’ bunch of idiots. And I do mean idiots – but to say more would spoil the story, I suspect… Trust me, though, and keep an eye out for this one if you read this book. If you’ve read it, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about…
I really enjoyed reading this collection of stories, and what I like most is the larger theme running through the whole thing – the idea that while the world is full of idiots, fools and utter bastards, sooner or later they’re all going to get what they deserve. What they deserve may not be pleasant, and might make us uncomfortable, but the cleverest trick here is that the deserving can’t be argued with. (And that, in turn, makes me wonder if maybe I need to be a little nicer… I also wonder, though, if anyone who reads this and doesn’t think the same thing is kidding themselves… After all, we’re only human.)
So, it’s dark. Very dark indeed, at times. It is most certainly not a fluff read, but any book that makes the reader think is a book well written.
If I had any issues with this anthology, it was that it took a little longer than I’d have liked to really grab my attention. Having received it as a review copy, I persevered, and while there aren’t any stories here that I didn’t like, there was a noticeable upward shift in my interest level when I reached the second half, or thereabouts. So it felt a tiny bit inconsistent, but all in all, I can forgive that. As I said, there’s content here that’s going to stay with me for a while yet. So well done, that author! If dark and unsettling stories about getting your comeuppance are what float your boat, then I’d say Irredeemable is definitely a worthwhile read.