cover image In Extremis

In Extremis

John Shirley. Underland (PGW, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-9826639-4-3

Shirley (Bleak History), a prolific and genre-spanning author, delivers a grim collection that manages to be weaker than the sum of its parts. Focusing on Shirley's "extreme" stories, many of which have undergone minor rewrites and been updated with contemporary references, the collection includes plenty of visceral horror and twisted sensibilities while still valuing storytelling over shock. Shirley is equally at home with redneck humor and irony ("You Blundering Idiot, You Fucking Failed to Kill Me Again"), old-school sci-fi twists ("Gotterdammergun"), and graphic horror ("Tighter"). All are told masterfully, especially the creepy and graphic "Cul-de-Sac," but despite the occasional gleam of humor and the frequent shifting among genres, there's simply not enough variation in tone to make this worth devouring in one sitting. (Aug.)