The Inner City

The Inner CityThe Inner City by Karen Heuler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Heuler’s collection gathers fifteen prime examples of her hallmark surrealist stories. Each one takes a recognizable character in a recognizable setting but follows the situation through to an absurd, dreamlike extreme. There’s a lot of sly humor to be found in these stories — a woman buys a fish at the supermarket only to discover it’s still alive and can grant her three wishes; an officer worker notices she’s gone bald and that a colleague who’s after her job has come to work wearing her hair; a vegetarian succeeds in bringing supermarket meat back to life, Frankenstein-style — but there’s a darker side to them, too, one that often borders on the horrific. My favorite of the bunch, “Thick Water,” is a remarkably sinister tale of suspicion and paranoia among human explorers on an alien world, in which all of the explorers but one are transforming. It’s an extraordinary piece of work, but then so are all the stories collected here. THE INNER CITY is a dark and delightful treat for anyone who likes their fiction engagingly weird and deeply human.

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