cover image The Dissolution of Small Worlds

The Dissolution of Small Worlds

Kurt Fawver. Lethe, $18 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-1-59021-651-4

This collection of 14 short, gruesome takes on existential terror likes to make it personal. Apocalypses, when they come, as to the inhabitants of a nursing home (“A Silence of Starlings”), bring a familiar, sour taste of disappointment and abandonment. The young are no more likely than the old to escape terrifying fates, whether working on a school’s “Special Collections” or trying to merely complete a physics degree (“All That is Thrown Away”). The universe, though uncaring, is not unmindful, which makes each morsel of existence seem a toy for unaware tots, to be taken away at the whim of immensely powerful beings (“The Cone of Heaven”). Fawver deploys metafictional reflections, turning a trapped play audience (“The Gods in their Seats, Unblinking”) or an author tortured by a publisher (“An Interview with Samuel X. Slayden”) into clear reader surrogates. The most successful tale, “The Final Correspondence of Sabrina Locker” (original to the collection), takes the traditional motifs of Lovecraft country—shunned farms, cryptic locals, curses from out of time and space—and makes them scream again with both fear and wonder. This is a satisfying exploration of “seething, conscious torment.” (July)