cover image The Best of James Van Pelt

The Best of James Van Pelt

James Van Pelt. Fairwood, $40 (698p) ISBN 978-1-933846-95-8

Van Pelt (Strangers and Beggars) showcases his mastery of short-form fiction in these 62 stories, all published between 1993 and 2018 and ranging from apocalyptic fiction to subtle daylight horror, Lovecraftian riffs, and speculation about future social policy initiatives. “Its Hour Come Round” imagines a future in which “empathy treatments” are used to rehabilitate criminal offenders. The reunion between school friends, one of whom now lives in an unusual mountain home, builds to a chilling conclusion in “Rock House.” “The Long Way Home” is another highlight, effectively contrasting humanity’s destructive impulses with its creative ones. The collection’s standout is “The Inn at Mount Either,” which opens on a man’s emotional search for his missing wife, who’s disappeared from the inn where they’re staying, and then offers the mind-bending reveal that the inn features “transition zones,” creating over half a million different realities in which she could be stranded. Van Pelt’s superior combination of imaginative concepts with recognizable human emotions makes him a talent deserving of a wide readership. (Nov.)