Eibonvale, 2015 (2nd ed.)
paperback, my copy from the publisher
I think there has to come a time in most people's reading lives when same-old, same-old just doesn't cut it any more. I'm there right now -- actually, truth be told, I think I've been there a while and just haven't really paid attention to the signs of frustration until just recently. In the reading arena of zombie apocalypses, torturefests, cannibalism (and let's not forget the book where HP Lovecraft, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs take on Cthulhu and Shoggoths - major groan ), where is the originality these days? Why are people happy to rehash the same old sh*t time and time again? And why aren't readers complaining?
Thankfully, there are many small presses out there whose founders are more literary minded and who see beyond the need for publishing the SOS -- and Eibonvale is one of these. I first made my acquaintance with these visionary publishers with their Rustblind and Silverbright (ed. David Rix), then came Songs for the Lost, and now there's Experiments at 3 Billion A.M., both written by the extremely-talented Alexander Zelenyj. I don't know the man, have never corresponded with him, but I can tell by his writing that he's very much on the cutting edge of the literary side of dark fiction. He outdarks dark in some of the tales in this book, which I see as a great mix of the strange, designed for people who want to push their reading boundaries in a most literary and intelligent way. At the same time, as far out as they may seem, these are very human stories that manage a great deal of depth, often in the space of only one and a half pages. It takes an imaginative, deep and clever person to make this happen, and it's just one reason why I loved this book and why Zelenyj needs more readers.
I'm not going to go into each story since even listing the table of contents would take more time than I have right now, but there are many incredible tales in here -- I loved "Blue Love Maria," for example, which has all of the underpinnings of those old, darker urban legends -- the sort that "twists and changes over time, it is the nature of its life." This is one of the shorter, more powerful stories in this collection, but there are longer ones that offer the same sort of gut punch -- the historically-based "The Prison Hulk," for example, had me immersed until the last word; the dawning self-awareness of isolation in "The Stealing Sky" didn't let up, and the growing horror of the city found in "I Humbly Accept This War Stick" are just a few examples of why I loved this anthology of stories. And then there are "The Laboratory Letters," and "Another Light Called I-47," just blew-my-socks-off amazing.
Surreal, dark, on the edge of nightmare -- I can't think of any words to really describe what resides in this book except maybe for this, from "Captain of a Ship of Flowers" :
"And my sleep is deep. And when I awaken I wish only to return to dreams, where I am alive."Those two sentences sort of sum up how I felt about this book: after turning the final page, it was difficult to get back into reality -- I just wanted to return to the dreams.