Saturday, November 25, 2017

Review: "The King is Always Above the People" by Daniel Alarcon

After reading his new book, the short story collection The King is Always Above the People, I have read every one of Daniel Alarcon’s books (not counting his graphic novel City of Clowns) and it is hard to think of a more vanilla writer. From his debut story collection War By Candlelight, to his two novels Lost City Radio and At Night We Walk in Circles, I am struggling to recall any details about either of those three books, and it looks like I will have a similar feeling about this one in a few months, or even a month from now. This book is far from being bad (in my experience, bad books announce themselves loudly and proudly early on), but it is further away from being good, and what it does do good I have seen many writers do better with a much shorter page count. That is the real problem with these 10 stories, which range from a brisk 10-15-page length to an arduous 40-50-page length. Sure enough, the best two stories here are the ones in the former category, with “The Ballad of Rocky Rontal”, a second person account of a gang members journey from the streets, to prison, to freedom and leaves us the reader on the cusp of his revenge, being the best one here: it presents a concept and when it’s novelty wears off the story ends. It is easily the best story here. I can’t say the same for the longer stories, such as “The Provincials” and “The Bridge”, each a story about families that overstay their welcome by 20 pages. And don’t get me started on “Abraham Lincoln Has Been Shot” a story that tries and fails to do what Wells Tower did with Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned”.  This isn’t an offensively bad book, but it is middling at best, it’s best parts in the short bursts amongst pages and pages of dead weight.

Rating: 3/5

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