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As its title suggests, May We Shed These Human Bodies (Curbside Splendor) by Amber Sparks is a collection of stories that is grounded in reality, but often has a hint of the surreal, the supernatural, woven into its fabric. The power in these stories comes from the awareness that a life is at a tipping point, and the assignment of emotional weight to everyday events we typically ignore. Just out of sight, behind the curtain, in the shadows, strange things are happening—dark moments that echo our secrets and lies.

“I WILL CROSS- STITCH AN IMAGE OF YOUR FUTURE HOME BURNING. I WILL HANG THIS IMAGE OVER YOUR BED WHILE YOU SLEEP.”

The debut novel by Amelia Gray, entitled THREATS (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is an unsettling and hypnotic story of loss, disintegration and the ways that love both builds and destroys us, anchors us, and alternately, lets us drift away. This is not conventional storytelling, but if you’ve read Gray’s work already (Museum of the Weird and AM/PM) then this will come as no surprise. To call this a detective story would be limiting. You have to jump in with both feet into the freezing waters, no easing a toe beneath the surface to see if the water is indeed water, to see if everything is safe. Nothing is safe, or reliable, and often others don’t have our best interests at heart.

When you enter the world of Paul Tremblay most anything can happen, and usually does. His recent collection, In The Mean Time (ChiZine Publications) defies expectations, the cover art a soft purple hue all filled with glittery type. It shows the faces of two sweet girls, which at first glance (pay attention, readers, the show starts here) could be two sisters sitting very close together, twins maybe. But no, it’s a two-headed girl, the first of many things that are not what then seem to be, the first of many times where Tremblay takes you by the hand and whispers sweet nothings in your ear, all the while the world falling apart around you, infrastructures crumbling, supplies running out, strange diseases wiping out the populace. But beyond all of that is the emotion, the humanity of what it must be like to exist in such end days, and it is here that he ratchets up the stories to more than just post-apocalyptic terror, dwelling in the individuals and families that are struggling to survive, to connect, to have a normal conversation, a memory that doesn’t send it all fracturing into shards of a former existence. It’s here between the floors where there’s no light, and yet, a sprinkling of hope.

In this slim volume of very short stories, Cut Through The Bone (Dark Sky Books) Ethel Rohan presents a series of confrontations, putting us in the middle of those awkward little moments: when your mother stands in the living room her face scarred and disfigured, eyeballs floating in their sockets, rimmed with blood; when the divorce papers are dropped on the table, your husband’s fingernails black with dirt, yellow raincoat wrapped tight around his frame; that moment of violence when you lash out at your only child, your wife gone, this the only flesh left to scream at, to hold, to hug and understand. This is not one long discourse, one epic tale that unfurls your heart, deboning you, leaving you dismembered. No, this is death by a thousand cuts, tiny slices that you hardly notice, here and there a thin ribbon of blood, a bite, a nip, hardly a sting at all, until suddenly this community of intruders has riddled your skin with wounds, a pool of blood gathered at your ankles, death revealed in your pale, translucent skin.

Dislodged from family and self-knowledge and knowledge of your origins you become free in the most sinister way. Some call it having a restless soul. That’s a phrase usually reserved for ghosts, which is pretty apt. I believe that my eyes filter out things that are true. For better or worse, for good or merciless, I can’t help but go through life with a selective view. My body does it without conscious thought or decision. It’s a problem only if you make it one.”—page 5

I’d heard a lot about The Avian Gospels (Short Flight / Long Drive Books) before ever reading it. I’d stared at those covers online, the red and gold, the abstract of birds in flight, and imagined what a combination of The Birds, The Road, and The Stand might look like. Would it be dense language, a languid read of heavy prose? The sample online hinted at that. Would it be a story of nature rebelling against man, an image of a phone booth, birds attacking it, stuck in my head? Would it be a journey across the wastelands, a cast of misfits striving for redemption? It is all of these things, and at the same time, none.