cover image The Brink

The Brink

Austin Bunn. Harper Perennial, $14.99 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-236261-2

Bunn’s debut story collection mixes genres and styles in 10 ambitious, impressive tales. Among the strongest are “Getting There & Away”—a near perfect story that involves a honeymoon, a lost ring, an explosion, and the Bali nightlife—and “Ledge,” concerning a ship in the late 15th century that discovers the literal end of the Earth and a passageway between the living and the dead. Bunn drops his characters in a variety of locales: summer school, a basement, a Second Life–like virtual world, and the Heaven’s Gate cult just prior to its mass suicide in 1997. And while many of his stories speak to the ideas of physical and emotional loss, the author’s fearlessness in constructing interesting protagonists prevents any moments of déjà vu for the reader. These characters are uncomfortable in their own skin. Both “Ledge” and “Curious Father” contain men questioning their sexuality. And sometimes, these characters also create reader discomfort. “Griefer” finds a man so obsessed with technology that he fails to pay attention to his family, and in “When You Are the Final Girl,” Bunn crafts a particularly threatening protagonist in Randy, a man bent on drugging a teenage girl after a car accident disfigures his face. This is a compelling collection, and several of the stories are breathtaking. (Apr.)