cover image Flowers of the Sea: Thirteen Stories and Two Novellas

Flowers of the Sea: Thirteen Stories and Two Novellas

Reggie Oliver. Tartarus (, $24 trade paper (388p) ISBN 978-1-905784-63-9

The 15 entries in Oliver's sixth collection (after 2011's Mrs. Midnight and Other Stories) alternate between period and modern settings, and all are distinguished by a sophisticated storytelling style redolent of the classic weird tale tradition. In the title story, about a married couple with mild telepathic affinities, the husband finds himself under assault from chaotic and surreal impressions when his wife begins to succumb slowly to Alzheimer's dementia. "Striding Edge" is a contemporary tale of ghostly revenge whose horrors seem all the more terrifying for happening out of sight. The book's most inventive selection, "Lord of the Fleas," is a zombie tale that spans the late 18th and early 19th centuries and is written as a pitch-perfect pastiche of the neoclassical prose style. Though most of the stories build subtly to a crescendo of horror, "The Posthumous Messiah" and "Waving to the Boats" are laced with droll humor that offsets their supernaturalism in sharp relief. Oliver's skill at wringing horror from both likely and unlikely materials makes this a book bursting with well-wrought surprises. (Feb.)