Stories of the Surreal

Very few fiction works capture the surreal as well as Ben Loory's book Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day. It's lyrical and mythical and a break from the everyday. I guarantee you've never read a book like this one. Consider this whimsical line (my favorite from the entire collection):

"The octopus is spooning sugar into his tea 
when there is a knock at the door." 

Judging from its cover (which I heartily recommend), it's clear something unexpected will emerge from these pages. And Loory doesn't disappoint. Within you'll find:

Bizarre alien children.
A swimming pool inhabited by an invisible sea monster.
A house in love with the ocean, separated by a cliff.
Boys who die in, then fly from, the depths of wells.

But this book is not all delightful animals having a tea party. It covers everything from fairy tale to nightmare to folklore, so don't expect a strictly cheery time from its pages. There are stories here that have a darkness I have not experienced since learning that in the original Cinderella story, the stepsisters cut off their toes to fit in the glass slipper.

I am reminded of a few novels as I read this (Shadow ShowLight Boxes, and Beatrice and Virgil immediately come to mind), but there is no clear companion piece to this work, as it stands unique and alone.

I am amazed by Loory's talent as I peruse these tales and I am dying to dive into them again and again.

octopus graphic originally from this site.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Book: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir

Why I Read It: Because I am a nut for anything space related. And I'd heard this was exceptional. 
First Line: "I'm pretty much fucked."

First Impression: Ha! This guy is funny! 
Last Impression: Wow. That was fun. Predictable, but not disappointing. And a little bit more dry technical content than I expected. But very very good. 


Overall – 5 The praise for this novel is well-earned. It's sharp, witty, scientifically accurate, believable, addicting, riveting, and funny. It gets a bit dry toward the end as Mark Watney, our stranded Marstronaut, continues technical explanations when the reader is itching for focus on the action. However, these explanations are necessary, add accuracy, and make the entire scenario plausible. So, if the worst thing about this book is it is works a little too hard building credibility, that's not that bad at all. 
Characters – 5 The Marstronauts are diverse and interesting. The ground crew is less engaging than the characters in space, but they are still well-rounded and interesting. But these characters all pale against the likability of our main character. Mark Watney is the all-American underdog we all want to root for. And with each page and every Martian obstacle, we are all rooting for him.
Story – 5 Though predictable in places, every part of the story feels new placed against the unforgiving Martian backdrop. Each new challenge makes us hold our breath and each quip from Mark keeps us hopeful and turning the pages. 
Narration – 4 The only place this novel doesn't earn 5 stars is here, as the pacing could have been improved. The technical facts that keep him alive in the beginning lose their draw the more often they surface, though they remain just as true. 

Read Again? Definitely. It was satisfying and enjoyable. Once it's had long enough to rest, I'll revisit it again. 

Tell Others to Read? Absolutely! However, with the movie coming out soon, I'm sure most people will hear Mark Watney's story one way or another. 

Excerpt: I'm pretty much fucked. 
    That's my considered opinion. 
  Six days into what should be the greatest month of my life, and it's turned into a nightmare. 
   I don't even know who'll read this. I guess someone will find it eventually. Maybe a hundred years from now. 
    For the record . . . I didn't die on Sol 6. Certainly the rest of the crew thought I did, and I can't blame them. Maybe there'll be a day of national mourning for me, and my Wikipedia page will say "Mark Watney is the only human being to have died on Mars."
    And it'll be right, probably. 'Cause I'll surely die here. Just not on Sol 6 when everyone thinks I did. 
     Let's see . . . where do I begin?
    The Ares program. Mankind reaching out to Mars to send people to another planet for the very first time and expand the horizons of humanity blah, blah. The Ares 1 crew did their thing and came back heroes. They got the parades and fame and love of the world. 
     Ares 2 did the same thing, in a different location on Mars. They got a firm handshake and a hot cup of coffee when they got home.
    Ares 3. Well, that was my mission. Okay, not mine per se. Commander Lewis was in charge. I was just one of her crew. Actually, I was the very lowest ranked member of the crew. I would only be "in command" of the mission if I were the only remaining person. 
What do you know? I'm in command. 

                                                                                                                                   Content property of Broadway Books

A Little Piece of Fiction by Dale Vaughn

You know, there was a time when this body, so ugly and undefined, was once chiseled. This body was once cheered and lauded by friends and fans, and envied and hated by others. These hands so large and strong once held things and people of great beauty and esteem. 

They once cradled beautiful girls in their strength and protection. The girls, god, I remember them. Hanging all over me, fawning after me and pawing me like a trinket. Who was the arm candy in that situation; me, with the looks and the body or them with their innate beauty and shimmering eyes and clothes?  Even then, I knew that there was maybe, something wrong with me. But I paid no attention, what’s the use in worrying when there is nothing physically broke to fix?

I glided through high school on my looks and charisma, even though there was a working and very intelligent brain in my head. But no one wants intelligence from the “likes” of me, as the “normal” kids would say. 

By “normal” I mean the ones who would or could never have what I had. Maybe they were fat, had asthma, poor, or just too damn lazy to have what I worked so damn hard for! I apologize, that is the old me talking, the one who could never see past his own persona or even care what others thought or said about him, or for the world for that matter. What happened out there didn’t affect me, because it didn’t touch me physically. 

The kids at school who were poor, who’s parents worked two jobs just to keep clothes on their backs, food on the table, or a roof over their heads, I didn’t talk to them, hell, I didn’t even associate with them. They weren’t like me and could never be, in my eyes.

I got to college and life got a little harder, but not much. I still had my pick of the girls and fraternities for that matter. All of them wanted me to boost their self -esteem and prestige, but what about my own. About this time was when I started to notice what could possibly be wrong with me. 

Gone by Rhiannon Root

The fork stabbed at a bite of syrup soaked pancake and scooped it upward. The triangular bite disappeared in three seconds. The fork floated down to the table. Then the coffee cup floated up and an audible slurp filled the IHOP booth.
Jack hadn’t gotten used to eating with Helen since her accident eight months ago. Watching her eat was skin crawlingly creepy, like a surrealist painting.
“What did you want to talk about, Helen?” Jack asked, wishing she would stop eating. He hoped that the gooseflesh prickling on his arms would die down.
            The coffee cup floated down. “Jack, I don’t want this,” she said.
            “The meal? We can send it back.”
            “Us, Jack. I don’t want this anymore,” Helen’s voice was pointed. She seemed angrier these days. Jack wasn’t entirely sure why. 
            The coffee cup floated up again. Slurp. “It’s like you can’t stand me anymore,” she said.
            “That’s absurd!”

2014 Hugo Winners

This Weekly Read offers up samples from this year's Hugo Award winners. Because everyone needs good sci-fi. Enjoy! 

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Equoid by Charles Stross
The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Creative Commons License
This work by H.E. Saunders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.