Short story collection, written by J.D. DeLuzio -- better known to us Everythingians as our wild and winsome JD -- and published by Brain Lag Publishing in 2022.
JD does not often show off his fiction here -- he specializes in factual writeups and reviews. Many of us have read his novel "The Con," a humorous slice-of-life tale of a group of people attending a Canadian science fiction convention. This new collection gives us a look at how varied and absorbing his fiction can get.
I'll admit I went into this expecting something different. The title of the book had me expecting lots of humorous and titillating stories, and the cover art, depicting characters from the stories, humans and inhumans alike, sitting together in a bar, so I also expected some crossover camaraderie. And while many of the stories have humorous elements -- what good fiction doesn't? -- and while there are a few crossover characters, the emphasis throughout the book is on high-quality, expertly-told, dramatic stories.
There aren't any bad pieces in the book. But some of my favorites included the two horror works that start the collection out -- "Let There Be" is creepy and weird, and it was cited as an excellent story by none other than horror editor extraordinaire Ellen Datlow, while "Foundling" draws us into the life of a girl going nowhere who lets her aimless life and unfocused compassion lead her into a life on the run with an abandoned child with gruesome appetites.
"Flying Whistle Stop" is a neat piece that posits how the world would change -- and how it would not -- if aliens visited Earth. It's told mostly through the POV of Jordan, a math whiz in 1970s Canada who dreams of working for NASA, or any other agency who'll let her travel to space. The extremely inhuman but friendly aliens nicknamed the Whistlers kickstarted a technology boom since their first visit in the 1950s, but their return visit is stirring up Christian extremists to even greater levels of lunacy. The character work here is really fun -- I can think of at least two characters, maybe more, who deserve their own novel, and the Whistlers' extreme weirdness is constantly fun.
The high point of the book is "The Book of Den(n)is," the longest story and the only one with no ties to science fiction, fantasy, or horror. The tale tracks Dennis through his youth, his teen years, into middle age -- and then after a tragedy, it follows Denis, a man Dennis met briefly as a kid, from his middle age, back to his youth and his childhood. It's a very human and humane story, with no Hollywood action or ending, no cozy wrap-up, and plenty of lost plot angles and vanishing characters -- because that's what real life is like. It's a beautiful story, and I was glad to get to read it.
Go pick it up, folks.