Sunday, August 9, 2015

Review: "See You in Paradise" by J. Robert Lennon

I haven’t come across a more divisive collection, personally than J. Robert Lennon’s See You in Paradise, in a long time. It is a pretty even, readable collection, none of the stories being too long or too short, but mixed in with some of the best short stories I’ve read this year (which I will get) are easily some of the worst (which I won’t spend too much time on). And none of them really affect each other, which was weird for me. Sometimes a really good story will affect me positively, and help me enjoy the one that comes right after it, and the same goes for bad stories as well. But the ones here, of varying styles, subjects and moods, seem independent of one another, and despite similar dates and times in each story, they are drastically separate from one another. I’ve never really come across a collection like that before, and I’m really impressed with Lennon for what is really a unique collection. Some of my favorites here are “Portal” where a portal in a suburban backyard opens up into various places, and ultimately shreds the fabric of the family who lives there rises above its one-note premise and becomes emotionally absorbing. The title story, about a man who finds his new love comes with some horrific caveats goes great lengths to show the terrors that can lie in wait for someone who is handed everything. But the best one has to be the little sleeper called “Ecstasy”, where a series of tragic events befall a young babysitter. I don’t know what about it made me so interested, but nothing that happens I expected, and was left with a lingering, juicy mystery I’m still savoring. But with those are stories like “Zombie Dan”, a milquetoast re-tread of the zombie genre that did nothing for me, and “The Accursed Items” one of those appalling post-modern list-stories that I find endlessly irritating. This collection really has it all, the good and the bad, and more than anything, it’s made me curious enough to dig into Lennon even deeper.

Rating: 4/5

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