cover image Destinations Unknown

Destinations Unknown

Gary A. Braunbeck, . . Cemetery Dance, $40 (216pp) ISBN 978-1-58767-085-5

The open road is a malleable metaphor pregnant with dark and dangerous possibilities in this uneven trilogy of tales from Stoker-winner Braunbeck (Home Before Dark ). "The Ballad of Road Mama and Daddy Bliss" is an outré first-person account of a DWI offender who travels to a bizarre subworld where traffic fatalities are reconstructed from remnants of junked cars. In "Congestions," a harried driver trapped in a traffic jam unravels psychologically as he witnesses a parade of surreal images outside his car that may just be projections of his own crumbling mind. Though original in conception, each of these stories suffers from a glut of details disproportionate to their slim plots. By contrast, "Merge Right" is a taut piece of Twilight Zone –style paranoia, featuring a man whose nighttime mission to take his dead wife's ashes to a final resting place grows creepier by the mile. At the very least, this collection reinforces Braunbeck's reputation as one of the more inventive contemporary writers cultivating the dark fantasy terrain. (June)