Tales of The Unreal: Vol. 1 No. 1

Unreal Press holds a very special place in my heart. And I consider them to be torchbearers in a very special movement of authorhood and publisherships, founded online and gently settling itself in print. They are representative of what I might call a /lit/ renaissance, a burgeoning goldenage of some very new and exciting, if at times blunt, cutting edge. The hands of the clock have come to this point, and Unreal Press is telling the time. This is their first publication of Horror Anthology, and now that I’ve finished it, I will say that I am looking forward to another. Quite so. I’m very proud of these guys, but I won’t say any more about that since I’m here to review the book. 

And check it out. The first thing I notice is the size, pocketbook format. Yes. This is my favorite format. I publish my work in this format. Just look. How nice is that. You get it. You see. I can tell that this book was published via KDP four and a quarter by about six and four fifths. Garamond typefact. Pretty sure. The interior formatting and editing is bang-up. And the reverse includes a very Archie-comic elemental advertisement for a book, Eggplant,  by Ogden Nesmer. I’m scheduled to review Eggplant very soon. 

This book comprises stories from a lucky thirteen different writers, most of them authors of other works that I’ve read or will read. Without further ado I’d like to jump right in.

The first story is Traffic Stop, by Zulu Alitspa. This story is an appropriate introduction to the book, the series, and as such by extension, the Unreal Press themselves. Alitspa is one of my favorite new authors because he is very prolific, and his progress outshine all other writers associated with Unreal, I believe. My experience in publishing brought me in contact with Alitspa some years back, and his output has exploded and taken form in a very impressive refinement and substantial growth. Alitspa reminds me of a type of student forged for greatness, and I’ve seen it happen. Unstoppable, almost exponential advancement in skill. I have a feeling he will be the first of us to compose a comprehensive pomo doorstopper, something big and dumb and hopefully fun. 

Traffic stop entails the dire unraveling of one Trevor Fletch, our poor Trevor Fletch. Trevor Fletch is the type of man for simple pleasures, country driving in his minivan, a warm breeze in his face. Small delights, like claiming quiet ownership over municipal hedges, his own tiny kingdom. And on his normal course, Trevor encounters the abnormal, a horror indeed. 

This story is funny. It employs some very basic Kafka-esque elements, dare I say, to a comic effect, a comedic horror if you will. Trevor is pulled over by a nameless officer of the law, an event that will guarantee his inevitable undoing. The cop knows about Trevor, has been watching him. He’s got plans for Trevor.

I like this part, where Trevor apologizes to the cop, triggering him hard. Trevor’s descent into captivity comes in small, aching increments. It’s what I consider a literary fingertrap, every move you make tightens the noose. I also really like the part where the police officer beats the shit out of Trevor, slamming the door in his leg, and then racks the pistol and puts it in his face. That’s funny. The ending made me laugh as I was left wondering where poor Trevor’s can of cola was instead of considering his impending torture and death. 

This part is funny to, when the cop so uncertainly puts Trevor under arrest:

“You have the right to remain silent?”

I’m not in love with Alitspa’s prose here, but I will say that after several readings it suffices for the story. I might nitpick, like, for example, instead of of 

“The brakes squealed and Trevor flew forward too quickly to stop himself, but he tried anyway and felt his wrist crack when his hand folded awkwardly beneath his slender body”

I might say

“The brakes squealed and Trevor flew forward, too fast to stop himself, cracking his wrist and folding his hand beneath his slender body.”

This story is important to the book, the trailhead to further reading. Our very first foray. It would be remiss to overlook this work. There are other small examples of some small stilt that is pretty negligible. Like I said the technicality in context is coming up, and I know he can demonstrate better prose than this, which from Traffic Stop hence he has, though this tale does mark an effective gateway into Tales of the Unreal, and as such has earned The Green. It’s good. It’s absurd, it’s dire, it’s funny, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously, which, when considering the craftsmanship, is Good EnoughTM. Make us proud.

The second story in Tales is The Collapse of H.M.S. Marianna, by Daniel Gavilovski, A very twisted tale of the eventual demise of the titular seafaring vessel from the tip of south africa to the island bahamas. And–I like this story–a lot. Marianna is quite worthy of mainstream publication, in my humble opinion, and represents the finest type of contribution to this anthology, a very well written, well conceived story–very well done. 

Here we have one Mr. Nelson, assistant cook to an absent or otherwise drunk Chef, as he deals with the repercussions of some inexplicable and enigmatic rot that spoils their rations, devours the ship, and mortally wounds grown seamen. He struggles to make sense as things become worse and winds up a direct witness to the horror at sea. 

This story is very funny. It’s written using some fun archaic verbiage and is composed as an epistolary, in this case, Mr. Nelson’s journalled “record”. Love it. The funniest part to me is that the ship was quite well equipped with supplies and our narrator was quite well the man for the job–alas. I liked watching them dwindle down to hardtack. The whole ordeal truly melts into madness the further we read and by the end I found a very psychedelic, very intense horror. This line still makes me shudder:

“All alone now, my belly gargled. I became so weak that I sicked up the whole bird on the planks, already a lumpy sludge. I see now: Mariana is vengeful. She refuses us our portions. The food rots faster than we can digest it.”

Pretty crazy, man! 

I really love Gavilovski’s prose. Ten out of ten. In my experience, this kind of composition is reflective of what I used to describe as 

“Anonymous post-modern.”

Where the writer flexes in english to an impressive degree before deconstructing the language and experimenting–Gavilovski begins it here:

September 24th, 84BC

It’s a lot of fun. I like to imagine cursed waters. The ocean is scary. Maybe the ship sailed into a weird bacterial pollutant or something, maybe it’s deeper. The bermuda triangle WOULD HAVE BEEN on the ship’s course, and they would likely have sailed it, perhaps eventually, on their planned voyage.

I’ve heard other readers tell me that they consider it a plothole that the crew might dine on such extravagant food, or that it might have such extravagant storage. The stores of food aboard Mariana were typical for a midnighteenth century vessel going half way around the world. Furthermore the food description aspects were part of the humor and helped demonstrate the contrast between expectation and outcome.

I did find a typo right here. This is both the author’s fault and the editor’s fault but because neither of them can justly be said to be truly ‘guilty’ of anything, all parties are absolved. I know how these things work. 

This story was worth the price of admission for this entire Anthology. This story alone will secure a win for the whole book. Bad stories, and by extension bad writing, can only get so bad, limited by the bottom. But for good stories, for good writing, the sky is the limit. There is in fact a pretty clear demarcation between what I would consider an amateur, and a pro. Collapse of the HMS Mariana crosses this threshold; it is great, and therefore worthy of The Blue. I’m absolutely stoked to have read this story and I will reread it often, guaranteed. This is exactly why platforms like Unreal Press are doing fundamental work. I’m now obsessed with Daniel Gavilovski and will eagerly pursue his work. 

The third story in this anthology is Twin Candles, by Miles MacNaughton. 

Goosebumps. That’s what this is. This story is Goosebumps. And actually it’s not that bad, it’s pretty on par in terms of storytelling. We meet the McGrew family. And I like the McGrew family. I used to read a fucking lot of Goosebumps and I know Goosebumps when I read Goosebumps. It’s comfy for me. And it actually I think could use a little exploration as a horror subgenre. The plot has to involve young people, kids, teens, getting spooked, being a kid, talking like a kid, trying awkwardly to relate to the reader. Twin Candles has all of this. 

We the readers are witness to a haunting: Inside An old house atop a much cursed swamp, which within the accursed lurks about and pursues the resident caretaker, some poor dude who almost gets carjacked by a ghost on a dirt road–a classic motif. Of course now the McGrews are coming. Younger sisterbear Charlie gets spooked by the same spirit while doing her thang. In my mind, even though MacNaughton’s description puts the spirit in a green robe, my head canon is such that the dude on the book’s cover, is the Twin Candles ghost. Especially because of MacNaughton’s aside feature directly under the ghoul. Heh. Goosebumps. 

O yeah and then older brotherbear Bowie is a classic piece of shit human and even precariously packs a fuckin gun on a fishing trip with papa bear. I was sort of waiting for Bowie to pull the piece on his dad or some shit but it didn’t happen. He did see our spirit, the dual flame, eyes in the dark, and he did fall off the boat, and dad did save his ass. I assume he’ll have to drain his metal. 

This story is split into IV parts. The last part is our climax. And apparently the poor McGrews are all “unconscious”. Which is such a Goosebumps way to go out. Unconscious. I actually expected MacNaughton to kill them in the end, but he did the right thing. He knows better. 

The prose here is not very good. It was tough to read the first time through. It’s very slow and not aptly described. The second time I read it I digested the story and I had some fun. That’s when I got the nostalgia, but the first time was a bit of a chore. Basically MacNaughton is telling, not showing, the whole time. I mean it’s just a part of his prose. 

“She shoved her foot into the throttle and watched, horrified, as the RPMs flew through the roof but the truck went nowhere.”

I might say “as the needle bounced and the engine flared though the truck went nowhere.” Maybe mentioning the RPMs specifically and then using a figurative statement like ‘through the roof’ reads a little too colloquially for me. 

Consider this:

“She went up to the netting and took a panorama picture, then grabbed a few selfies in various poses.”

Again, we’re referring directly to a panorama picture, then using the term ‘grabbed’ to describe taking photographs. It’s just my opinion, but i might sooner say,
“She went up to the netting and spun herself slowly, her arms extended, the camera clicking and snapping.”

Anyway, I had fun reviewing this, if at all for the fond memories associated with the subgenre. I think it would be satisfying to see MacNaughton conquer this subgenre. And I’d like to see him try again. Twin Candles is not bad. It has earned The Yellow. A writer like this is fun to read because I can tell there is an earnest ambition for quality, if perhaps yet grounded by technical prowess. And is the case with any and all writers, especially developing writers, skill grows with practice. Can’t stop. Won’t stop. To be honest, I’ll be looking forward to MacNaughton’s work on Volume Number Two. 

The fourth story is of Unreal Press’ Tales of the Unreal Volume Number One is:

KGB Agents From Beyond the Stars, by James Krake. 

James Krake is an interesting writer to me, because his ideas far outpace his execution, yet his output is solid, and insofar as a decently prolific author of science fiction, fantasy, and other future tech subs he’s made an impression on this book and at Unreal Press. This story is just about tied for the longest entry in the anthology, along with the previous story. 

Here we have KGB Agents, Krake’s very own Francis Ford Coppola meets Twilight Zone Era George RR Martin. As I mentioned, there is no lack of storytelling here, the story itself draws mostly from the tactical and survivalist banter of some several desperate wartorn soldiers disguised as Soviet Officers and penetrating what I believe to be Kamchatka. 

Men are dying, damn it! There is a mysterious spirit on the lam strangling our heroes. Here our primary arc pertains to the sterling serious Sergeant Hardy, his Private Alan, and a man named Freeman, a privateer, I believe. They haul out to no-man’s land for some recon and relaxation, and end up among mad hijinx such as but not limited to:

Roadside assistance, wintery jungle pursuits, some collateral damage, and more. Krake has a decent penchant for linear storytelling, and I enjoyed the action of the story. I like this part:

“He snatched up the rest of the fuel cans and jumped in the back again as the others threw themselves into the cabin. The engine sputtered to life and for a moment Hardy was afraid they had poured in moonshine. Then the diesel started firing and the wheels started spinning”

That’s a pretty Krake sentence. 

The lot of them end up chainsmoking in order to even sort of see the ghost, which was pretty funny. I was never really anxious or scared reading it, which is okay. I definitely expected all these poor fuckers to die at the end so I’m glad that happened. I always appreciate the very classic trope in the final conclusion:

“Cause of death for the five Americans was filed in the Lubyanka as inexplicable suicide.”

Good times. 

I look forward to reading more of this author because I know that he is prolific, and has a voice for linear narrative and dialogue. I believe Krake’s prose could be improved and I know that it very likely is. As I’ve mentioned, he continues to write. One of things he does that I disapprove of is the word “Then”. I don’t like when the narrator uses the word “Then”. That’s just me. 

I also see a lot of telling, as opposed to showing in Krake’s writing. I don’t care for his prose very much but interestingly enough it doesn’t really get in the way of the storytelling. I did read it twice and the second time did yield more detail but not as much as expected, so I believe it’s easy enough to read–it’s about a six and a half on the Flesch-Kincaid–as far as I can tell. Pretty normal. This might be an example of telling:

“Freeman kicked his door open and jumped out from the Zis-5.” 

I might sooner have one of the characters tell us about the specific type of vehicle, the Zis-5, rather than the narrator do it in an action scene. Narration in KGB is third omni; the narration also interjects commentary, seemingly primarily from Hardy’s perspective. Let me read you something:

“Alan and Hardy followed quick


Alan and Hardy followed Freeman, the sun setting behind them on a short day, too short of travel. The open white hole in the sky hugged the horizon and turned to yellow, vanishing into the dark. Most of the day would be given up to night and ice. The freeze crept in and ate from the shore of the river and bit at the iron hull of some deserted barge. The captain rubbed his eyes, and followed the frost across the vessel and up the ropes. It was hardly big enough to haul cows.” 

Maybe you don’t mention that it’s hardly big enough to haul cows since it literally has cows on it but the characters don’t know it yet.

All in all, pretty fun to read. Still kind of Goosebumpsy to me. Maybe sort of Sandersony. By that I mean maybe YA. Reads a little like YA. KGB Agents From Beyond the Stars is not bad. The Yellow. The story here was good and I believe Krake’s voice will refine with practice, and he trains a lot, I believe. So I expect improvement. His ideas are fun to explore so I’ll likely read more James Krake just to see what he puts his poor characters through. 

The fifth story is The Branca, by L.A. Labuschagne. 

This one is trippy. Here we have The Branca, a tribe of self-similar people of the jungle, people of hands and feet. White people sent to the trees to fuck and run. And there’s nobody left to fuck. I guess. I was looking forward to cracking the mystery of who the Branca were. I thought maybe they were feral Australians or hybrids from Timor. But the writer spoiled it for me and it turns out they’re spawn of some deserters spooked by the nuclear blast of some requisitioned South African war ship. Okay. 

“They came from somewhere else when the sun was set on fire. Now only in the jungle’s shade could they survive.” 

A pair of sisters or otherwise fellow Branca females become accosted by some “Sallow” types, and the older of the pair gets lasered to death after she spears one of the bad guys in the guts. Sweet. These men are prizehunters, mercs, apparently for the government of Congo or some authority otherwise located in Kinshasa. They consider doing bad things. The men draw us through a little exposition while they discern the remaining Branca’s flesh value, but she plugs the Chinese exmilitary soon enough that the last man standing can work out a very anime-inspired happy ending where the scalper whose latest ambition in his bloodsoaked career was increasing the size of the war that he was fighting, saves the day and gets the girl.

This story is absurd. It’s not well written. Read this:

“With her Branca face, just two black eyes under a muddy gray bark, she stared ahead, through the undergrowth, down at the mulch floor.”

I might not mention ‘with her branca face’. So now I know you want me to picture her face. But ‘with her face she stared ahead’, its telling, not showing. The prose is very amateur in its execution:

“Marya ignored her. What she didn’t ignore was the forest floor and its footprints.”

But it’s crafted well enough to not have entirely destroyed the story. It’s readable. It maintains its tense. 

“She could feel the sweat on her brow already, greasy as it mixed into her mudpaint. And the string felt far worse. It cut like bone knives into her rangy shoulders, carving flaky lines into the only clothing she wore.”

That’s not bad.

 The opinionated narrator is of course annoying but. Okay. This is the literary analog of this kind of drawing. As far as short stories go, The Branca is not bad. Sure.I might categorize this story as “Less than okay but not bad. It’s not very good.” If Labuschagne was any worse off with his prose, he had earned the red. I didn’t really love the story. The praying to the sun motif and the final passage at the end of the sun answering her prayers was the essence of this story in which i found the most redeeming value. The dialogue was okay. I know that Labuschagne is a hitter on the scene, and he deserves my respect. I don’t love this story but I do respect his effort and that as well has gone a long way into keeping him out of the red. Good job. You can do better.

The sixth story is The Silver Pasture, by Guy Hayes. 

This story starts off strong, old man Raymond Williams, still shellshocked, going through his pervy old man thing at the restaurant, that was fun. Then the talking maggot showed up. On the broccoli. Why? To berate Old Ray and send him into an episode and but of course why not, to which he most ultimately succumbs, poor dude, though still lucid throughout his death and even into his own autopsy, his narrative remains. Pretty gnar. At least the maggots were delicious. Perhaps they were the cause of his unnerving pass to the afterlife afterall. 

The story is a pretty stupid tale that even leans on a campy punchline conclusion like some cursed off-brand children’s cartoon, too weird, it’s too weird for the kids. This tale marks the part of the book where I say, okay. Okay Hayes. I see maybe what you did here. Here we have a very cheap ride. A very cheap ride that goes around and up once and I go “Wee!” I see what you did here. I think what’s more is that I see what you didn’t do. Harder to put my finger on. The nut you busted on me, the reader, was like, not very pleasant. The overall flavor? My reaction, always blinking and confused. But I went on the ride and I got my picture taken. That’s it. Actually. If Tales of the Unreal were a ride, this would be where your photograph is taken. I actually read this story three times and three times I got the same wad. In my face. 

I’ll probably read it again much later in life and enjoy it more for old time’s sake than for its writing, but The Silver Pasture does enjoy some redemption from its stupidity. It is not terribly written. The prose isn’t awful. And the story is campy and strung together just enough and in the shape of a tent just enough to take pitiful shelter therein and beg of you Hayes, to smarten up. Haha. No I’m kidding. I don’t think you were trying to reinvent anything here, so I commend you for building this tent. I stood here and all I got was this T-Shirt. This story is sort of an anti-mascot to MacNaughton’s Spirit, the little maggot, dancing on the broccoli. 

This story is also an important part of this book, as it marks a very careful shift, a reference point, a landmark on the path that is this anthology. From here we will have the best and the worst. 

Okay. Not bad. Yellow. Lol. Next.

The seventh story is Vestigal, by Sophus. 

This story is interesting to me because it is hard to read. It’s difficult, nor is it fun. Your prose my guy. What is this story about, my guy? Here we have a homeless bum getting beat down and maybe dying and traversing timelines and perhaps universes for a little while, taking the form of a monster-wanderer walking through the realmscape. He comes back to life and eventually wakes up in a hospital, just to leave and get warped up by some bug and trapped in somebody’s body?. The final scene is so fucked I might was well quote it:

This writing takes itself very seriously. There are enormous clarity issues here, mostly a caustic purple, prose so unclear, so poor, that I tried to read it thrice and faltered, the volume to my side. You see the book’s unruly and bent pages? It was the work of Sophus. 

There might be some tense issues here. It’s in third omni present, though this sentence might be in past:

“Empty-headed, empty-stomached.”

Though I think it’s just clarity again. It’s so purple that the writer might very well get away claiming poetry.

Check it out:

“Naked black trees adorned in flocks of dangling shoes  ragged under stripes of ashen snow, made gauzelike in the few red tears of sunset which streak through the fog.”

You tell me. 

I don’t want to rewrite any of it just so that I could prove a point. It’s not good at almost every part. I’m not sure what Vestigal means.Maybe a variation of vestigial. Maybe a portmanteau of vagina and testicle. 

Something I will say in defense of this story is that the writer definitely has a vision. And that’s fundamental to being a better writer. I would read Sophus again. I want to see where this goes. Sophus, read some Hemingway. When your description is so overwroght and unclear, it confounds the pacing, and spreads tiny moments out over disproportionate intervals of consideration. I recommend Hemingway because it’s on the opposite side of what you’re doing. If you really want something more florid, try Heart of Darkness, or idk Frankenstein, get into that, flexing grammatically is a much more impressive move than reaching for adjectives. Don’t get me wrong, I appreaciate your effort. A figurative A for effort. But Vestigal’s real final grade in real life is an objective Red Card. Not good. Next.  

The eighth story is called Ajar, by Alex Prestia.

Prestia, Are you out there? Are you safe? This story is very bad. Oof. Red. The Red. Okay. Whew. This is unreadable. Check out this opener:

Here’s contradictory tenses:

I don’t know whose fault this hypen is, but you’re looking for an em dash. 

This is autistic. The author of this story is trying to channel what little Nabokov he’s read, I’m guessing the first two pages of Lolita. Poor Clair, our story’s only character. I think she’s an old lady tripping out to some alzheimers and facing her younger/older self. It’s just very badly written, in a very clunky and crudely connected english, a sort of stream-of-consciousness that wants to maybe be quirky but is most definitely not quirky. It’s very cringey. It’s not horror, it’s horrible. And the only redeeming quality to this story is that it is very short. So for that I will show mercy and move forward. 

The ninth story is Not My Problem, by Wenyu. 

The idea behind this story might have worked if the author was a little more clever. The basic premise: end notes. OooO endnotes! The end notes in Not My Problem aren’t exactly an extension of the narrative directly, but rather a bibliography of funded study publishings and journal essays that sort of interject the primary story to – I don’t know – give us a laugh, or extend context. The idea might be neat but Wenyu doesn’t really let it become neat. He just does the thing. I wanted maybe some fake articles, or deeper rabbitholes, or even links that made sense. Here, he gives us this comment about the EMTs that are rescuing him:

And the corresponding end note brings me to this: Office of Tax Analysis Working Papers and Technical Papers. And I read a bit of this to try to see if it was going to make more sense, a wider scope. But no. Just a rando commando article vaguely about taxes contextualizing the previously quoted prose. Wenyu is trying to be clever by linking some unrelated tax document to the comment, saying to us, Heh, I pay your taxes, you have to save me. It’s not done well. It’s hamfisted and uncreative after the first one, but just – end notes to unrelated articles that sort of fulfill immature tropes. Poorly crafted. 

The author here is clearly trying to sound like DFW but it’s not happening. I admire the inspiration DFW has on people. 

You used the word “futilely” here. No. No no no. 

Oh yeah the primary story here deals with Luis, whose motivations – I will admit – escape me. He has borrowed his friend Raul’s car, he definitely crashes it, but who cares. For some reason, it’s not his problem. That’s not funny. Here’s a tense error:

Or something. Ugh. The last line is kind of cute. Okay. It has an appropriate ending. This story wasted more of my time proportionate to its over payoff than any other story in the book, and for that reason I’m out. Not My Problem gets The Red. And that sort of is my problem right now.

The tenth story is Railroad Boys by Jalen Hart.

Why do bad writers always seem to make stories for children? And sort of miss the mark. Is it because they’ve never read anything outside of YA Goyslop? I couldn’t really blame them then. Perhaps that is the case with Hart. Perhaps he just never read anything else that inspired him to write. Here we have kind of a diet Tom Sawyer, the Railroad Boys. They’re trying a profit, you know kid. Cmon. They get on a train but it’s no ordinary train. They apparently very quickly develop into grown drifters; the still-haired boy becomes the stiff-haired man, and they forget themselves, our main character Osip by the very end of the story now a roving marauder and murderer. 

Check this out: 

“A glitched smile.” No. 

Here you’re telling rather than showing me: 

“Daniel made a noise…”

More telling:

“One of the men shot the girl in the face….”

For you Hart, I recommend reading Clive Barker, let’s say, The Great and Secret Show, a persy fave. I think he’s doing what you’re trying to do. And it’s very easy to read. Clive Barker isn’t really great but he’s obviously way better than you so there’s your homework. I’m sorry but The Railroad Boys is in the Red Zone. Offsides. To the penalty box until the required reading is complete. 

The eleventh story is The Nuclear Man by Joshua Vitullo.

This story deals with a lone traveler, a dutiful man in a dark world. He pushes the cart across the wasteland, an epic delivery, but for what? His story unravels parallel to his own life, hope slowly dwindling, despair mounting all around. He’s being poisoned, the radiation, it’s The Nuclear Man you got it. He dies doing his job, it’s pretty sweet.

There is a lot of monologue here, first person. The self reflection is pretty great:

“It’s no use making wishes…”

That could maybe use a clean up, take the threaten part out. 

You get it. 

 It’s not perfect but it’s very fun to read.

The tense is all over the place, 

“Optimistic…” vs

“The road is still nothing…”

It might be intentional, as a mechanism to deliver us the character’s final death – it might not. It sort of works because in my headcanon it’s kind of a mental journal, so at some points The Nuclear Man is reflecting and sometimes he’s narrating to moment. I’m not sure if Vitullo does this conscientiously – but whatever. 

Otherwise the prose is acceptable. It was reminded of Frankenstein at one point when he’s talking about his sister praying for him. I like how the character deals with his own demise. Almost politely dying.

I like the story. It’s fun enough to read. I read it twice. It’s not terribly exciting or captivating, but a sort of banal wasting away, a boring dystopia. I’ll grant The Nuclear Man the Green because I’ll probably read it again. That’s all I have there.

The twelfth story is Unbound by David Herod. 

This is the second last story in the book. And I’m going to say right away it’s Green Zone. This is the story of a man who becomes obsessed by a book the inconclusive contents of which torture him and scare him straight. The subject of this mysterious tome, Jean Bouchard, an adventurer and writer whose final leaves of truth have blown away to the winds of history. Lol. It perfectly represents itself. It is short and sweet. 

 Love it. It’s totally a fuckin metaphor for the book as a whole, and in a wider scope by extention a metaphor for self publishing and perhaps Unreal Press itself. There is a very palatable ‘letters from the editor’ flavor here. 

Herod’s prose: It is ample and woven well. It reads dramatically, but the purpose is suited. He isn’t feigning desperately to emulate something classic; he’s comfortable in his writing. It’s a little wordy but it’s in the style just enough to be fluid and funny. I like his description of Bouchard’s Amazing ProseTM:

“My palms sweat through age soured paper…”

Read this for me:

“A stronger man…”

“All this and more I had lived…”

Tell me it’s not fun. It’s a lot of fun. I read this a few times just for fun. It’s funny how at the end he makes a plea to his reader to only endeavor works that are complete. Funny funny funny. That says something about writing and publishing itself. I like this story. I like this writer. Good job. 

The last story is called Vacui, by Ogden Nesmer. 

A barren and dismal station, the lost locale of ___, Melner works in the duty of some land survey, some deep secret operation, perhaps reconnaissance, perhaps nevermind if you wanna keep your job about it. He draws our narrative into a character drama, which I think is Nesmer’s most comfortable paradigm. After Melner is betrayed and his stack of personal journals go missing, he has an emotional meltdown and takes a nasty fall and ends up in a the hospital, hilariously injuring the nurse and eventually running into the Vacui itself, shot at, destined for emptiness and death I believe. 

Nesmers characters are fun. And I like his writing. His prose is decent; he’s a reliable writer. What I like about Nesmer is his overall voice. He’s a good storyteller. That coupled with his ability to stay out of his own way, I think the reason why Nesmer is the darling of the /lit/ renaissance is because he is solid enough that his output reflects the total state of the art, the generalization of a movement, a microcosm. 

This story stressed me out, the cold tones, the dismay drudgery, the impersonality. It was not very scary but it does evoke a sort of anxiety and that perhaps speaks to an essential theme for Nesmer here, that feeling of being lost. Melner has a deep fear of open empty spaces, and is dumped into the void. It reminds me of a certain nightmare that I used to have, where I was just floating but the contrast between myself and anything else was so stark, so stressfully different, like a horse through the eye of a needle, that’s how I felt reading Vacui.I also like the mystery of Nesmer’s work, how the reader is as confused as Melner might be. 

It is an appropriate end to the volume, Nesmer’s voice is the local authority on what it takes to cut the right story from the right rock, a very apt contribution to Tales, during the conclusion of which Nesmer lends his own brand of wasteland bleakness.

Check it out:

“The gun cracks again…”

That final word “nothing”. 

What can I say? I love it. It’s not a terrible surprise that Nesmer can easily earn The Green, Vacui is good.This is my challenge to Nesmer, to really challenge himself to produce something great. I think that is what is yet to be. Now granted his latest novel, I Pray to the Hungry Gods, I’ve not read. So I am not in any position really to be making demands of him. I appreciate the reliability. And every author will always relish the opportunity to write another book, a better book. I dig this story and I’ll dig it again no problem. 

And I’m proud of the editors of Unreal Press for recognizing Nesmer as the trustworthy exit portal from the murky beyonds of this very strange foray into pulp fiction. 

The book is Good, and Tales of the Unreal Volume Number One is deserving of the Green. 

It’s a very appropriate debut for &amp Reviews. I’m stoked to have killed your darlings for you, and I’m very satisfied that the book is not a piece of shit. I am going to submit some work to Unreal Press for Tales Volume Two. Yes i am. 

Thank you to everyone of you involved in this book, well done for showing up. You are my inspiration now. Talk soon.