In Close Encounters of the Urban Kind, editor Jennifer Brozek has put together a collection of short stories in which urban legends are explained by alien encounters. The level of explanation varies, as do the types of aliens involved. Many of the urban legends used as inspiration for the tales are well-known, others are local phenomena, while some are new legends created by the authors. I thought it interesting that alien explanations for urban legends are not more common after reading Close Encounters of the Urban Kind.
A short note from the author follows each of the twenty stories explaining the urban legend within. I found this useful for those legends with which I was not familiar. As Jennifer Brozek states in the foreword, the aliens' motivations and the reasons behind their actions are unknown to us in the early stories. Later in the collection, we are offered more explanation and greater interaction between the humans and those other beings. At the end of the volume, there are biographies for all the authors. I have highlighted some of my favorite stories below:
"Lollo" by Martin Livings
While many people apparently have a fear of clowns, I had thought I was immune. In this first story, Jenny, the babysitter, has an easy time until Domenic, one of her young charges, asks her to cover a black and white clown doll with a blanket so that he can go to sleep. After the terrifying events that ensue, I will never look at clowns the same way.
"Headlights" by Jennifer Pelland
In this story, Jennifer Pelland relates the misfortunes of three high school students in search of alcohol and entertainment on a dark New England night. The "bad boy" of the group drives with the headlights off, waiting for another car to flash its lights at them.Read more ›
Close Encounters of the Urban Kind is a solid anthology that stays true to its base premise of mixing urban legends with aliens, complete with an author note at the end of each story indicating where the legend came from and how the story came to be written. The stories are generally sufficiently creepy to be entertaining, especially the opening few and closing few stories, with just a touch of middling performance in the middling regions of the book.Read more ›