Sometimes guilt is a good thing

Unpredictable Worlds: Stories - Jessica Knauss

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.


                It was guilt that made me read this book.  Let’s be straight up about that.  The publisher is one that I’m auto approved for on Netgalley, and I hadn’t read anything from them in a long time.   So I picked this out of guilt.


                It’s awesome.


                As anyone can tell from the title, this is a collection of short stories, most of which are fantasy based.   The stories range from the really short (flash fiction) to several pages.  The book itself is loosely divided into sections - Magic Realism, Mirco Fiction, Rhinos, Hemingway, and Women.  There is an afterword that goes into detail for some of the stories.


                The best section is the collection of Rhinoceros Stories, with Micro fiction being a close second.  This doesn’t mean that the other sections are bad, but these two sections stand out the most.  It does have to do with the power of the writing in the Rhinoceros section because, as many of you are no doubt aware, rhinoceros are hunted for the stupidest of reasons.  Knauss’ section includes stories based around different species and ideas.  There is a story of a woman who thinks she is becoming a rhino (and who falls in love with a man who loves books), the artist who is determined to do portraits of the Sumatran Rhinos, as well as a story about talking animals.  There is also a series of flash fiction here.  Knauss’s short stories in this section make her into the literary PR person for the species.  If you love animals, you need to read this book for the Rhino section alone.


                The Micro fiction is good and sometimes startling, but in some ways it can be more touching than some of the longer works.  This is especially true for “The World’s Largest Rocking Chair”.  Not that everything is sweetness and light.  “Stairs to the Beach” is particularly Twilight Zonish.


                While the other sections aren’t quite as good, they are not bad.  There is a wonderfully powerful story called “The Consequences of Neglect and How to Make Amends” – which challenges the rhino stories as the best one of the volume.  The Hemingway stories are mostly interlinked, though “El Novillero” is the best of the three.  Furthermore, there is a disturbing story about teaching. 


                This collection is by turns funny, touching, thought provoking, anger inducing, and faith affirming.  It’s great.