a book by Jhumpa Lahiri
Sometimes the blurb on the book encapsulates the book in an excellent way. From the back cover of the recently released collection, INHUMAN CONDITION written by Kate Thornton, comes this explanation:
“Human beings tend to fear the things they don’t know, and that is often sensible, given the lurking dangers that confronted our distant ancestors. But sometimes we need to examine carefully the things we think we know: the pet shop owner in town, the teenage girl who lives next door, or the nice man who walks his dog each evening in our neighborhood. The stories in this collection will drive that point home, and perhaps give you reason to re-define the word “’inhuman.””
As well as define “human.” With a subtitle of Tales of Mystery and Imagination these twenty-one tales set on earth and in space, frequently push at boundaries defining what it means to be human. Frequently the tales are a bit disturbing, not in terms of graphic depictions, but in the meaning of what has happened or will happen thanks to the final twist at the end illuminating the dark working of a character's twisted mind. In nature, the concept of “camouflage” keeps both the hunted and hunter alive in the constant struggle to eat or not to be eaten. That same concept, passed down in the hardwired code of humanity from our distant ancestors is alive and well in these times. Make no mistake—this book is about the hunters hiding in plain sight among us and the prey they seek for a variety of purposes.
The anchor story in the collection is the very good tale, “Nightwatch: Cardenio” (pages 83-154). Using characters and other story elements originally created by Jeff Williams and with his permission as noted, the tale takes the Nightwatch team deep into the Amazon. A research site does not just vanish off the face of the earth in Brazil. But, it has happened and the research site is gone without a trace. It is now to the team to figure out what happened and why in this adventure tale.
Author Kate Thornton creates a sort of whiplash effect for the reader several times in this collection and this is a case in point. After the above noted adventure tale deep in the Amazonian jungle, she follows it with “Cell Phone Call” starting on page 155. In five short pages, the author makes parental nightmares all too real and leaves readers, at least those of us with kids, thinking twice about using our cell phones in public.
That story is followed by “Vinnie's Cargo” and readers are back to adventure and suspense. In this one, there are shuttle runs between the Moon and Mars in the unspecified future. Despite the rules and regulations, where there are humans involved there will always be some who attempt to move contraband and make some ill-gotten gains. Usually, nothing good can come of some attempts and that may, or may not, be the case here.
And so it goes through the entire book that contains both previously published and credited work and new. Author Kate Thornton consistently delivers through the entire book as each and every single story is a good one. That rarely happens. Whether it is late in the collection with the very disturbing mystery “The Eyes Never Change” or the strangely amusing science fiction tale “One of the Family” or any other, the read is constantly good and full of rich details in settings, characters, and storyline.
Not only is Kate Thornton to be congratulated, so too is the publisher. Denouement Press is an imprint of Wolfmont LLC owned and operated by Tony Burton. Known as a publisher of anthologies and cozy style mysteries, this is a new venture for the publisher and reflects the kind of book that might not have been published by Wolfmont before.
One hopes this is not the last collection released by Kate Thornton. Simply put, INHUMAN CONDITION: Tales of Mystery and Imagination available in print and e-book editions, is a very good book and one well worth your time and money.
INHUMAN CONDITION: Tales of Mystery and Suspense
Denouement Press (Wolfmont LLC)
Paperback copy provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2011
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