Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: "A Better Angel" by Chris Adrian

Chris Adrian is one of America’s most unique literary talents, and his short story collection, A Better Angler, is by fat his best book. While I say unique, I don’t always mean good. His novels, Gob’s Grief, The Children’s Hospital, and The Great Night can be a bit too idiosyncratic at times, but when he is on the ball, he offers emotional resonance better than any other author I can think of. It is almost frustrating because I want to like them. And while that problem is present in this collection of short stories, it is much less so than his longer novels. The ideas he is playing with are more contained and reduced for their obvious short shelf life. While some stories do fall flat, as is bound to happen in most, if not all short story collection, Adrian is down right brilliant when he succeeds. Most of the stories in this collection farm similar territory that you would find in any of his novels: real life emotions like grief and loss collide with the world of the supernatural, with angels and demons playing key roles in the outcome of many of these stories. Some gems I would like to point out are “The Sum of Our Parts”, where a female suicide victim floats out of her comatose body to experience the many lives of the staff at the hospital her body is at, with both sad and aberrant results. Another story I liked was “The Changeling”, where a small boy drifts in and out of what may or may not be a demon possession, much to the exhaustion of his two caretakers. But the best story of the collection is easily “Stab” where a boy whose twin brother (who happened to be his Siamese twin before a surgery) dies, falls in with a burgeoning female psychopath to find his body. The imagery, the darkness and the light all make for one of the best short stories I have read in a while and is totally worth seeking out on its own. Not a perfect collection, but proof that Chris Adrian deserves your attention.

Rating: 4/5

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