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Jennifer Brozek - In a Gilded Light,
This review is from: In a Gilded Light (Paperback)
I'm usually not interested in short story collections. I prefer to take a new book in all at one time so I can build a world up in my head, and while there, traverse it from one end to the other without having to stop. Short stories aren't journeys, they're excursions - little outings that can be accomplished quickly, like dropping off the dry cleaning or baking a casserole. I have exactly two story collections in my personal library (Skeleton Crew, by Stephen King, and The Living Dead anthology, about zombies). Adding to my hesitation to read this book was the fact that Jennifer Brozek is a new writer to me. I'd heard of her but never read her work, so that thing where I try something I don't normally like because it's by an author I love? I didn't have that here.
Recently I've been curious about flash fiction, which are quick snippets of a story, usually under 1,000 words each. They express a moment without showing you the future or filling you in on the past, dropping you straight into the action. Horror flash is visceral, as fast as a stabbing and sharp as the knife between your ribs. You can't ask, "What happens next?" and you'll probably never know, "Why?" I wanted to try out a lot of it at once, so I found myself reading Brozek's new collection yesterday. And last night. And this morning.
Rushing through this book is not a wise option. In a Gilded Light is a basket full of dark tales meant to be handed out a few at a time, like Halloween candy from the scary old lady down the street. "Drowning" opens the book in a deceptively simply and not-very-scary way, leading you to think that perhaps you can get through the whole thing without having to put it down. Brozek cleverly lets you get a foot in the door before she drops alien spiders straight onto on your brain.
Before you know it, you're deep into a modern collection of cautionary tales."Overheard" made me promise myself to avoid anything but small-talk in small-town diners. "Aversion Therapy" makes a good case for reading the fine print. "One Hell of a BBQ" is a stark reminder of why you should never, ever, ridicule the chef, while "No Names" will make you think before leaping at the chance for a sexy one-night-stand.
Not every story is a winner, but so many of them are that I never went more than a few pages before being drawn in again. You want murder, mayhem, poisoning, accidents, aliens, or bad breakups? Keep turning the pages and you'll come to what you're looking for. With that kind of variety beckoning you onward, Brozek lures you toward her little house in the forest, tempts you into the great big oven, and cooks you for dinner, three pages at a time.