Irredeemable by Jason Sizemore
Genre: Adult horror/science fiction/mixed genre short stories
Publisher: Seventh Star Press
Release date: Available now
Source: Finished paperback from publisher
The nitty-gritty: An odd collection of short stories that are by turns violent, hopeless, humorous and perverted, filled with aliens, androids, ghosts and even humans, all of them trying to survive in one way or another.
Getting used to Tommy’s personality was like letting those nasty green shit-flies bite you until you didn’t notice anymore. But after six long summer weeks trapped in a new town without friends, I decided a pair of idiots like Tommy and Wilson were better than watching my momma drink herself to sleep every evening. – Shotgun Shelter
Jason Sizemore is better known (at least to me, anyway!) as the editor of the wonderful Apex Publications, a small press that has pushed the envelope in more ways than one when it comes to weird genre fiction. But it turns out that Sizemore is also a writer, and a pretty good one at that. I was happy to receive Irredeemable for review from Seventh Star Press, a collection of eighteen of Sizemore’s short stories that have appeared in various publications over the past eight years, although seven of the tales appear here for the first time. Indeed, the title says it all: the most pervading theme of this collection is hopelessness. In several of the stories, the world is literally about to end, and in many, the protagonist seems to be facing his or her last moments. What these stories lacked for me was any sense of optimism. They paint the world as a place of destruction where life is violently short, and even the future is bleak and terrifying.
But lacking optimism gave them something else: a hard-edged look at who we are, or who we could become. These stories don’t pull any punches. There is humor, yes, but it’s the type of humor that laughs at you while you’re tied to a tree naked and about to be attacked by zombies. Many times I found myself start to chuckle over a particular scene, only to stop when I realized that I probably shouldn’t be laughing at all. Within these pages you will find aliens, androids, ghosts, witches and regular humans too, although these humans are mostly of the unsavory variety: rapists, killers, and drug dealers, people on the fringes of society who’ve never learned how to behave in polite company. Sizemore’s upbringing as the son of a coalminer in rural Kentucky shines through in many of these stories. The feelings of desperation and fear are palpable, and I felt uncomfortable while reading this collection.
Which is exactly the way you are meant to feel. These are not feel-good stories, so if you’re looking for something along the lines of a Ray Bradbury tale, then you should keep looking. Sizemore made me grimace and gag and sometimes I actually wanted to look away from the page. But in the end, I’ll find it hard to forget this book and the odd assembly of characters that he has brought to the page.
For a taste of what you’re in store for, here is a quick recap of some of my favorites:
City Hall – A gleefully nasty tale of a bunch of city employees who get stuck in an elevator at work. Someone’s getting fired…
Samuel – One of the more poignant stories about a man who watches at his mother’s death bed, trying valiantly to keep Death from taking her away.
Hope – A well-written story with beautiful imagery about an asteroid that is about to hit earth and destroy it for good. Told through the eyes of an interesting woman who may just be immortal.
Yellow Warblers – Invading aliens stumble upon a small, hidden Appalachian town, whose residents do not want to be found.
Plug and Play – A humorous tale of a man with a job on a space station who is unwittingly used as a drug mule.
Mr. Templar – I loved this story about two androids who live on a dying earth, looking for a petroleum source that will keep them going. This story reminded me of the movie A.I. Artificial Intelligence.
Not all the stories worked for me, and one was just downright distasteful and made me sick to my stomach (it involved animal cruelty, that’s all I’m going to say). I also felt that some of the stories seem to cater to the male reader, as they deal with male lust and sexual perversion run amok.
But despite these unpleasant aspects, I applaud small publishers for pushing the envelope and giving writers room to experiment with different kinds of fiction. The short story is alive and well, and I will be curious to see what Mr. Sizemore writes next.
Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Don’t miss Jason Sizemore’s guest post later this week!
You can find Irredeemable here: