Monday, January 20, 2014

The Undead have Stories to Tell

Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble
     Anthologies are cool things. You get to sample several different writers or, if the collection is from a single author, you get to sample several different aspects of the writer.  In the collection "The Undead at War and Other Stories", Kevin Long shows several sides of himself. There are poems and short stories with twists and turns.  I don't pretend to understand everything this author is saying but I will say I enjoyed the ride. So much so that I want to see more.

About the book:
       The first story, "Bubba's Burger Barn", is a unique and interesting time travel story with a built in loop. While far from my favorite in this group of tales, many will find it exceedingly funny. And I did feel for the protagonist, Yank E. Flagg. Drops and drips from our life sprinkled into a future setting kept me on
guard for hidden commentary on our nation and her policies. Mostly it was the time loop that got to me and Flagg.

      The second selection is poetry piece called "My Baby's the Last  of the Communists" is only one of several poems.  These poems are short interludes between stories and some I connect with and some I didn't but poems are like that. Every reader brings something different to the table, emotionally, and poems tend to touch those emotions.
      The third is the "Undead in Heaven" and with this and the other stories set in this same future, Long shines. The story unfolds slowly so the reader feels as confused as the central character, Elmer Amherst. Elmer remembers the car accident that sent him to heaven but heaven doesn't quite make
sense with someone in orange coveralls asking him how many fingers he's holding up and what medications Elmer is on. And why is there no food in heaven and when it does show up, why does it taste so bad? Once I was let in on the secret, I was hooked.  I didn't want the story to end; but wait! There's more! It is this story and the others set in the same universe that makes me such a big fan of Kevin Long. His stories are touchable, his characters, while not as fully finished as I like, are interesting and familiar.  The plights in this set of stories are real, happening today on a different level, and something I could see happening in the near future.
    There are stories from another universe in this collection which are strange yet they stuck with me, especially "The Celtian Sky". I think often about how things being slightly out of place can cause such discomfort within our souls, a passing theme in this story.
     In his prolog, Long mentions Larry Niven. Niven is a great spinner of tales; his stories remind me of my dad telling stories about everyday life.  Long's work is similar in nature and this collection reminds me of a book of short stories by Niven where several (maybe all) of the stories start in a bar. The exception is most of the conflict has to do with Heaven in Long's stories while the bar is a jumping off place for Niven's stories.

My Take:
    Most of what usually goes into this section was intertwined with the description of the book itself.  I really enjoyed this collection.  Not all the stories and poems touched me equally but, for my money, the Undead stories made the whole book worth reading. The book is free from errors, the continuity is solid, the characters are good and the plots were interesting.

My recommendation:
   This is best for a science fiction reader but others will find this work interesting, too.

1 comment:

  1. Hi! I'm the author of the book in question. I initially published it under a pseudonym because I was having problems with a stalker, and it just seemed safer. That situation has since cleared up, so I re-issued the book - and my previous ones - under my real name, "Randall Schanze." All my subsequent book are under my real name, too.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say how much I appreciated what you said about my book. This was my second one, which is the moment where you wonder if the sophomore slump got you, or if you actually do still have more stories in you that are worth telling. I didn't know, I honestly didn't, so you speaking nicely about it really made me feel a lot better.

    Thank you for that. You gave me some of the determination to keep going.


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