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The View from the Seventh Layer Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 18, 2008

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, March 18, 2008
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (March 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375425306
  • ASIN: B0041T4PMU
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,826,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Brockmeier follows up the acclaimed The Brief History of the Dead with a collection of 13 stories possessing the enchantment of his two children's books, but with adult twists. In the title story, Olivia lives in a little red cottage on an unnamed island and sells maps, umbrellas and candies to the tourists. She also sells prophylactics and believes that, in a glorious moment, she was abducted and examined by an alien Entity who came from the seventh layer of the universe. In a more O. Henryesque story, The Lives of the Philosophers, Jacob, a philosophy grad student, is trying to understand why certain great philosophers ceased to do philosophy. He finds the answer when his girlfriend, Audrey, becomes pregnant with a child he doesn't want. In The Air Is Full of Little Spots, the narrator, a presumably Afghan tribal woman, writes of her tribe's belief that we see the world only from the back, but at moments, by the grace of God, the world turns its face to us. While many characters reach such moments of clarity, the stories often falter when they do. At their best, though, the tales show Brockmeier's mastery of the tricky intersection between fantasy and realism. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Brockmeier’s widely praised short stories have appeared in the New Yorker and the O. Henry Prize Stories, among other well-known mainstream story venues. His frequent forays into speculative fiction, many of which are in this collection, ought to pique the interest of sf and contemporary fantasy fans as well. Star Trek buffs, for instance, will delight in “The Lady with the Pet Tribble,” which puts a futuristic spin on Chekhov’s famous tale about extramarital romance; just substitute tribble for dog in the title, and note that the love interest of its alien, starship captain protagonist has multiple husbands instead of just one. In “Father John Melby and the Ghost of Amy Elizabeth,” a pastor known for his dull sermons receives sudden evangelical power from a spirit he thinks is God but is only a lovelorn ghost. The title story recounts a lonely island girl’s encounter with an alien entity. Each carefully crafted tale filters insightful observations about life through a seductive screen of magical realism and alternates whimsy and wisdom. --Carl Hays

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
I can't wait for Kevin's next book!
Rebecca Krukowski
I like the way I feel when I read Brockmeier's words and love his detail.
Mike D. Landfair
A great collection of short stories, very thought provoking.
Michelle Boytim

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on April 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In a recent interview, Kevin Brockmeier described his approach to fiction in a way that could serve well as an apt summary of the contents of his captivating new short story collection: "I suppose I navigate the tension between the realistic and the fantastic largely by failing to recognize it," he observed, "though I don't know whether I would call this a working method or a blind spot. Typically, when I sit down to write, any fantasy I turn my mind to very quickly begins to seem stitched through with realism." By any measure, reality and fantasy mingle inextricably and with apparent ease in these 13 memorable stories.

THE VIEW FROM THE SEVENTH LAYER contains four stories explicitly labeled "fables" that are among the most affecting in the collection. From a mute in a city where "everyone had the gift of song," who raises a collection of parakeets to share the sounds of his life ("A Fable Ending in the Sound of a Thousand Parakeets"), to a man who "happened to buy God's overcoat," only to discover the myriad prayers of humanity it housed ("A Fable With Slips of White Paper Spilling From the Pockets"), these stories boast the charm of a children's tale (not surprising, considering Brockmeier has authored two children's books) and yet are rich with mature emotion.

The most strikingly original story in the collection is "The Human Soul as a Rube Goldberg Device: A Choose Your Own Adventure Story." It begins with the simple act of a man returning milk to a refrigerator. At the end of that two-page scene, the reader in effect becomes the protagonist of the tale, offered a choice between putting his "shoes on and going out for a walk" or "spending a quiet morning at home.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on April 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The new short story collection from Kevin Brockmeier, The View from the Seventh Layer, is difficult to pigeonhole for these stories defy ready classification. Not strictly fiction genre nor completely science fiction, the author describes the collection thus: "The View from the Seventh Layer is not strictly or even primarily a work of science fiction; in a collection of thirteen stories, I would say that four of them fall squarely within the science fiction and fantasy tradition, four of them squarely outside, and the other five straddle the border, some leaning most of their weight toward realism, some toward fantasy or science fiction."

It's difficult to fully explore a collection of stories in a limited review; therefore, I've chosen to focus on two that stood out on initial reading. "A Fable Ending in the Sound of a Thousand Parakeets" is barely eight pages long and yet it hits with enough force to bring the reader to a full stop. The first story in shares a mute man's experience of living in a town where everyone communicates through song. He is "...the only person who was unable to lend his voice to the great chorus of song that filled the air."

Is this deceptively simple tale of the ultimate outsider placed here to invite readers to slow down and savour Brockmeier's tales or, by beginning his collection with a story of a man who can't speak, is he raising flags to remind readers they need to look beyond the basic meaning of his words?

"The Air is Full of Little Holes" explores the life of a woman pictured in a "magazine with a yellow border around the cover." The gentle story of a family is at odds with the ugliness which appears when western expectations meet a traditional ways of life.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Missesrain on April 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The stories are real enough to bring tears to your eyes and fantastic in a way that makes you never want to leave. I can't wait for his next book- although there is something profoundly sad and a little disturbing about his writing. Reading "The View from the Seventh Layer" is like taking a vacation in an Escher print, and coming home to a Dali painting.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Imez on July 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Because he is a great writer. Maybe just not such a great storyteller.

The words he fits together, seriously, they're like magic. The strangest feelings a person can have, Brockmeier can find the right words for them. So if you're reading to enjoy perfect beauty in language, this is your book.

Also, his concepts are unique. No regular old, coming-to-terms-with-abusive-parents/cheating wife/middle-aged-angst here. This guy is using a chunk of his brain most of us just don't.

But...they just aren't very compelling plots. It's just, a bunch of lovely and strange stuff that happens.

If that doesn't bug you, definitely read this short story collection. It doesn't _read_ lovely, but it _feels_ lovely.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Thern on July 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Brockmeier's stories are filled with wonder, nostalgia, and sadness. The best stories, such as the title story, build up feeling in a subtle manner to the point where they impart a piercing emotion.

In some of the things he tries, he could be accused of being too clever, yet it works. For example, the middle of the book is taken up with a choose-your-own adventure story. (Note that if you follow every path of this story, there is one section you will still miss unless you also flip through the pages.) Some of the stories work better than others, but all are interesting and memorable.
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