cover image The Drowned Life

The Drowned Life

Jeffrey Ford, . . Harper Perennial, $13.95 (290pp) ISBN 978-0-06-143506-5

Following close upon the release of The Shadow Year , Edgar-winner Ford's third collection leads readers down dark and subtle passageways onto some very strange turf. In the title story, people drown and end up in a submerged city whose inhabitants are scornful of anyone wanting to return to the surface; a man named Hatch is compelled to escape Drowned Town in order to uphold a promise to his son. Similar metaphors of submersion are applied to drastically different effect in “The Manticore Spell,” “The Dismantled Invention of Fate” and “In the House of Four Seasons.” In “Night Whiskey,” the book's strangest tale, two men must roust slumbering drunks from trees after an annual festival; in addition to sending celebrants literally up a tree, the special once-a-year bash also features visitations with dead relatives, and what begins as near-slapstick ends with disturbing revelations and a loss of innocence. Throughout these 16 stories, Ford covers much stylistic terrain, weaving between science fiction, realistic stories with fantastic elements and even some nearly straight-up (and successful) comedy. Readers of all stripes should be able to find something here to love. (Nov.)