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Beneath the Surface of Things Paperback – August 31, 2010
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One of my favorite stories is "Jacob's Voice." In it he writes:
"Untouched and silent, she cut through the throng of Jacob's family. Her kin parted for her, a flock withdrawing in reverence to their priestess. If judged solely by her appearance, she might have blended into the crowd of mourners, just another grief-hollowed matriarch. But Andrew saw past the neatly-pressed black dress, past the close-cropped gray hair and deeply-creviced skin. He saw her eyes. The seized him, dared him to demand his freedom."
What an amazing paragraph - full of character and nuances and layers. All of his stories exhibit this skill. I highly recommend you read them all.
Having enjoyed Stephen King, The Twilight Zone, etc.,how fortunate I felt to have discovered the fiction of Kevin Wallis.
Creative imagination that does indeed expose what lies beneath the surface.
Stories that I remember weeks... and months... after reading them, in fact, never forget, and so am drawn to read again.
Now I'm not usually one for extended author introductions, or author commentaries on their own stories. It tends to strike me as affected and slightly pretentious. But in this case, I'll give Kevin Wallis a pass: that brief except from the intro gives a better picture of his short story collection than I ever could. And besides, it reminds me of that classic tv series of horror and science fiction-The Twilight Zone.
I took a class called "Twilight Zone Culture" in American Studies last spring. The basic academic premise of the course was that Rod Serling could slip social commentary under the McCarthy-era censorship radar by writing screenplays in the sf/fantasy genre. And how could anything serious be hidden in something so frivolous as science fiction?
Well I don't know how much social commentary's lurking in the pages of Beneath the Surface of Things, but the story collection does echo another prominent feature of the famous 1950s/60s classic: like Serling, Kevin Wallis takes a scene or scenario from everyday life and turns it into something thoroughly twisted.
It illustrates exactly where Wallis excels as a horror author: believability. His mastery of suspending this reader's disbelief is as developed as any giant of the genre. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for a full-length novel sometime in the near future... as well as checking under my bed before I go to sleep for the next couple weeks.
Reading time: Short story collections are great for the simple reason that they don't require long periods of downtime to enjoy. Read one or two on your lunch break, between classes, or waiting for your name to be called at the Student Health Center. That's my experience, anyway.
Recommendation: I'm not much of a stickler for strict genre distinctions. When I put Beneath the Surface of Things in horror and not some horror/sci-fi mix, I use the H.P. Lovecraft litmus test. When Charles Stross writes about monsters from the cosmic abyss, they're summoned by arcane mathematic equations and computer programs. That's sci-fi. Kevin Wallis doesn't give complex explanations for his monsters. That's not a criticism, just a distinction-and it means you can feel safe giving this book to new sf initiations. SF for speculative fiction, not sci-fi.
Availability: $4.99 for an ebook's a little steep, I'll admit. As usual, I'll recommend getting a free sample first for a taste test.
Most recent customer reviews
This collection of twenty five horror stories is the best I've read in a long time in this genre.Read more