cover image The End of All Our Exploring

The End of All Our Exploring

F. Brett Cox. Fairwood, $17.99 trade paper (306p) ISBN 978-1-933846-71-2

Veteran short story author and Shirley Jackson Award cofounder Cox (coeditor of Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic) brings sly humor and a tone that’s nostalgic, quintessentially American, and unfailingly uncanny to this haunting and excellent first collection of 25 reprints and two new stories. In “The Amnesia Helmet,” an 11-year-old girl, inspired by Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, builds a device that more than exceeds her expectations. “The Deep End” is a horrifying tale of the unspeakable things lurking in a swimming pool’s drain. “Mary of the New Dispensation” is a mind-bending, exceedingly strange look at the Victorian-era spirit craze. Other stories, such as “Up Above the Dead Line,” “What They Did to My Father,” and the original title story, explore horrors that are sobering and more ordinary but no less affecting. Cox is a master of subtle, understated chills that lurk just behind the familiar, and each story conveys a solid sense of history and place. Readers who enjoy literary speculative fiction (with shades of Flannery O’Conner and, of course, Shirley Jackson) will find much to love: there’s not a disappointing tale in the bunch. (Aug.)