Welcome back to another edition of the Book Club! The “compilation” book is a style that we’ve enjoyed a few times over inside the Smut Vault, but it’s never had the proper day in the spotlight over here. Today, we’re fortunate enough to change all of that. What’s the best genre for flash fiction, and how should the reader best engage with a series a short stories that are more about stimulating the mind than…elsewhere? G. Edward Smith was kind enough to let us explore this new horizon and we’re ready to jump in with both feet. It’s time to light some candles, get out the fancy notebook and lay on our sofa as we get deep into the mind of the flash fiction community.
The Collection: Flash Fiction & Short Stories by G. Edward Smith piles together a batch of eleven short stories on a varying number of subjects. There’s not really a genre theme here, but if you had to force it out of me, I’d call it suspense/horror. Most every story deals with a grim subject: suicide, usery, or death-related themes in general, and each will typically come with a twist towards the end. Depending on your reading speed, you can probably knock out a story or two in 15 minutes or so, and no story overstays its welcome. The author front loads the book naturally, so the best stories that require the least amount of reflection are presented first. Some might say this makes the more dense stories more difficult to navigate, but I prefer to think of the starter stories as appetizers, trying to bring you into the more in depth pieces of fiction. These stories won’t all be home runs for every reader, but that can be chalked up to the variety of dark content being discussed.
The subjects of these stories are not heroes, and at the same time the stories are not written to “teach a lesson.” The tangents, twists, and conclusions can be as absurd as life itself, and that’s more than likely the point of this entire exercise. While some of the stories are truly spine tingling and thrilling in their vacuum, there is a creepy realism at play that reminds the reader that the real world can be more insane than the pen and author could ever dream, and there’s nothing new under the sun. That’s not to say that the author isn’t being creative, of course. The pacing and reach of each short do a fine job of leaving the reader fulfilled despite the fact that they’ve only been reading for a few minutes. In my experiences before becoming a blogger, the typical short story collection is one where an author has a stack of ideas that never quite got off the ground. A mix-tape of things that feel good but don’t really go anywhere, if you will. This collection however changes my thinking in that regard. Sometimes short stories just need to be short stories, and having less detail makes the process more rewarding with the right subject matter, and we’ve got that in spades here.
Verdict: The Collection by G. Edward Smith is an exciting batch of short stories that will make you sigh, cringe, sweat, and even pause to think for hours about the absurdity of life. Death, fraud, madness and the other deep subjects covered will make you uncomfortable in the best way possible. Not every short story in this collection will be for everyone, but there’s something to be said for each tale and a reflection to be had at each of the eleven brief conclusions. Maybe these stories would never be fleshed out into full novelization, but for now I’ve got them right where I want them, inside The Collection.