cover image The Clockworm and Other Strange Stories

The Clockworm and Other Strange Stories

Karen Heuler. Tartarus, $45 (264p) ISBN 978-1-912586-10-3

The 19 effervescent fantasy stories in Heuler’s fourth collection (after 2017’s In Search of Lost Time) sparkle with wit and imagination. In the title tale, mechanical worms infest time, wreaking havoc that causes the scientists exploring them to age prematurely. “The Lovely Kisselthwist” tells of an insectlike creature whose airborne eggs rampantly catalyze amorous attraction between those exposed to them, between people and inanimate objects, and eventually between heavenly bodies. Though the tone of most of these tales is light and breezy, Heuler invests them with serious subtexts that counter their often comically absurd premises: in “Alien Corn,” invading extraterrestrials slowly take over the planet by catering to humanity’s fondness for distractions from serious issues; “Egg Island” concerns an evolutionary leap by which humankind and animals slowly begin to incorporate polluting plastic waste into their organic bodies; “Here and There” is a beautifully poignant tale in which society’s dismissal of the impossibly complex bridges a young girl constructs in the confines of her miniscule backyard highlights the status quo’s undervaluing of ingenuity. Heuler’s voice is refreshingly original, and readers will find these stories remarkably inventive and brimming with ideas not found anywhere else in contemporary fantasy fiction. [em](Jan.) [/em]