Smilowitch and Blackwood Publishing
September, 2013; $12.95 PB
Reviewed by Josh Black
Originally published in 2008, this 2013 reprint is technically David Fingerman’s first short story collection. A strong Twilight Zone vibe runs through the pages, but it isn’t just mimicry. Fingerman’s voice brings a distinctive flavor to the stories, drawing readers through the cracks of reality to see what’s just beyond. Divided into sections grouped by characters’ ages, the collection as a whole looks at the encroachment of the uncanny through all of life’s stages.
The first section, “Too Young To Know Any Better”, features stories in which the main characters are children. Most are creepy cautionary tales. There are killer toys, cursed objects, and the kinds of places and people your parents told you to stay away from. The stories here read very much like grown-up versions of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, and kids of all ages will delight in the darkness.
In the next section, “Old Enough To Know Better”, the characters are in their twenties and thirties. Some are aimless, others socially deviant, and some are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. You’ll come across alternate dimensions, ill-fated love, and a healthy dose of revenge by way of dark magic.
The journey through life continues in “Is This A Mid-Life Crisis?”, and crisis is quite an understatement. Here are bad habits with eternal consequences, a supernatural prison break, post-apocalypse vacationing, and fear of the dark leading to a very unexpected outcome.
The autumn years of life are reflected on in the final section, “Senior Moments”. Keeping with the rest of the book, these moments are anything but quiet. Death sentence reality shows make an appearance, as do scheming souls, cannibals, serial killers, and snow crabs. Yes, snow crabs.
Edging Past Reality does a good job of setting the stage for Fingerman’s next collection Two Degrees Closer to Hell, which tends to speculate on the afterlife. It’s also an entertaining, wonderfully macabre book in its own right. The unique structure gives a sense of progression, and the single-idea-based, no-frills approach of the stories is refreshingly old-fashioned. Fingerman’s stories bring to mind those of Matheson, Beaumont and Nolan. If much of what’s here seems familiar, it’s in a comforting sort of way. Edging Past Reality is a fine and twisted collection, a perfect choice for when you just want something to escape into.