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WesternSFA
Aftershock & Other Oddities
by F. Paul Wilson
Tor Paperback, $16.99, 352pp
Release Date: February 28, 2012

This quality paperback houses a collection of short stories, horror and oddities, or what the author, in his introductory Note, calls “interstitial material.” Each story is preceded by the author’s explanation of how it came to be written, when, and for whom: a literary lagniappe (to use one of his own favorite words) that gives a cozy, sometimes dramatic, setting for the reading. He is always careful to give full credit to instigators, including his daughter Megan, the arachnophobe who co-authored “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

Unless he is writing about absolutely evil entities like Rasalom, most of Wilson ’s villains, the murderers, psychos, social climbers, German Socialists, losers and part-time creeps, have an endearing quality to them. Their essential humanity gets me to thinking I’d enjoy sharing a round of drinks with any of them at a suitable watering hole.

Glints of humor offset the bleakness or horror of each story as well. Whether it’s the way Mitch messes with the prison guard in “The November Game” – the gruesome yet psychologically satisfying sequel to Ray Bradbury’s “The October Game” – or the description of description of Denise’s shopping skills in “Foet” or the table-turning Tammy of “Please Don’t Hurt Me”, you get these people. And why? Because they are little mirror glimpses, not so very distorted, of ourselves. To paraphrase my favorite of the Problem plays, “there went but a pair of shears between us,” and Wilson nails human hypocrisy and faint-heartedness to the wall. Reading these stories is like entering the Funhouse with its room of sad monsters and hall of mirrors; not so very different, are they? ~~ Chris R. Paige

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