Trilogy: A Collection
Outskirts Press/The Cadence Group, 2013
Reviewed by Michael R. Collings
Prudence MacGregor’s Trilogy: A Collection is a short (108pp.) compilation of three tales loosely linked by theme and treatment. “Parallelograms,” “Random,” and “Up There” each begins firmly in reality, in which people behave as we expect them to, things remain largely static, and events appeal to have causal connections to each other. MacGregor goes out of her way to establish the believability of her characters, landscapes, and plots—the latter being more often sketched than fully developed.
In “Parallelogram,” a fiercely independent young woman sees her Doppelgänger, which completely alters her perceptions of herself and others. In “Random,” the simple act of setting a balloon adrift with a short note to the finder opens the main character up, not to the adventure she hoped for, but to something quite outside her imagination. And in “Up There,” a young man’s hobby—watching planes pass overhead and speculating about them and their passengers—leads him to unanticipated actions and a chance encounter that, as with the characters in the first two stories, changes his life.
None of the stories are fully developed as paranormal fiction. They are instead outré, reminiscent of episodes from old television series like Night Gallery or The Outer Limits. They rely on a deftly surreal touch to evoke a cold chill, often in the final sentences or paragraphs of a story, in which a deflated balloon or a woman’s coat hanging over the back of a chair suggest rather than detail the horrors to come. They are almost ghost stories, almost supernatural or paranormal…in the best possible ways.
If there is a single difficulty in the collection, it is that the writing level is uneven. Nicely detailed passages merge into passages that are wordy, that rely too much on previously used vocabulary (in “Parallelogram,” apparently occurs three times in two pages), that are in specific ways flawed. The misuse of shudder for shutter provides an inadvertent moment of near horror in the description of a decrepit house but ultimately comes across as an error and weakens the story.
Readers enjoying a dip into the worlds of real-seeming characters whose lives abruptly touch the inexplicable and the potentially frightening will enjoy Trilogy.