Published: eBook, All Things That Matter Press, March 2012
Length: 266 pages
Where Did I Get It?: Received for review from NetGalley.com
Summary (From Goodreads):
“There’s more to this world than flesh and bone.” Set in the mysterious space between the everyday world and an existence just beyond reach, “Oddities & Entities” traces a path through the supernatural, the paranormal, and the speculative. With moments of horror, dark humor, and philosphical transcendence, these tales explore a definition of life beyond the fragile vessel of the human body. An anthology of six stories, “Oddities & Entities” is the recipient of four national book awards from the 2012 Readers Favorite Book of the Year Awards and 2012 USA Book News Best Book Awards.
Opening Line (of the first story in the book, Boneview):
Before Allison knew the meaning of words or the context of visions, she knew the Curmudgeon.
This is possibly one of the best short story collections I have ever picked up, at the same time as being one of the oddest.
The six stories take elements of human psychology and well-known supernatural and paranormal creatures and turns them on their head with spine-chilling results.
All of the stories were clever and very different from each other – at the end of the book I could remember the main elements of each with very little thinking because they had each left me with a little something to think about and mull over.
Allnach’s characterisation is fantastic, no two characters were the same and none of them felt flat or unrealistic as is often the case in short stories. Within the confines of the short story structure it is very easy to have one-dimensional characters because there simply isn’t time to fit in a mass of backstory and the main story you want to tell, any writer will tell you it’s difficult to strike a balance successfully. Allnach never once fell into this trap, cleverly using the characters thoughts and memories to fill in gaps in some stories and simply by moving the time quickly and efficiently through others. Every story got me engrossed enough to not want to put it down because I wanted to know what the characters would do next – their world was always so close to mine in every way it was a bit like following the progress of a friend.
Several of the stories got gory and violent but never in a way that seemed out of place – it was always something you had seen coming and fitted perfectly with the story, inevitable but often gruesome – my stomach turned on more than one occasion. Despite this, I never once wanted to stop reading, the stories were so intriguing that I simply had to keep reading – my face must have been a picture as I winced my way through some scenes, equally disgusted and fascinated. It was a bit like watching a scary movie from behind a cushion – I wanted to look away but simply couldn’t in case I missed something important.
Every now and then I got a bit bogged down by long words and slightly heavy language but it was never enough to make me stop reading and usually was used well in context that I could carry on reading and glean the meaning from what else was said and going on.
The thing that has stayed with me most from reading Oddities and Entities is the realisation that the human brain is very finely tuned and it’s surprisingly easy for that balance to be disturbed and thrown off course, often without you even noticing. That’s what made it so scary, there were very few points during the stories where I could have put my hand on my heart and sworn that I wouldn’t have made the same choices as the characters in their situation – even the choices that led to things I normally wouldn’t even imagine.
It turns out much scarier things can happen than turning into a ‘vampire’ if you get bitten by the wrong sort of bat, the grey sense of order in the world maybe has much darker roots than the ‘human logic’ we assume and those weird, whispering, out-of-character thoughts you sometimes have? Yeah, they’re not the ‘you’ that you think they are…
My Rating: 5/5*