In author Steve Berman's second collection of stories and essays, he once more guides readers through the dark paths of his imagination. In these tales of regret a scent of loneliness entices children to start eating away at a caretaker's historic house, a nursery rhyme tempts a young lover, and a meek accountant finds himself abandoning the mundane life he knew to chase after monsters.
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About the Author
Table of Contents"Bittersweet"
"Secrets of the Gwangi"
"Always Listen to a Good Pair of Underwear"
"The High Cost of Tamarind"
"The Price of Glamour" (a Tupp & Lind Victorian fey novelette)
"Tearjerker" (a Fallen Area short story)
"Caught by Skin"
"A Rotten Obligation"
"Hidden in Central Asia"
"A Troll on a Mountain with a Girl"
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've been a fan of Steve Berman's fiction since reading his short novel VINTAGE, a love story involving living and ghostly gay teens. I read his collection TRYSTS a few years back. I somehow lost this collection in the shuffle of releases from Lethe Press in general and all of the multi-author anthologies Berman has edited in recent years and so placed it on my "TBR Challenge" List for 2013. I read it a few months ago, but then fell behind on writing my reviews, so here it finally is. Unsurprisingly, I loved most of this collection. The stories are all speculative fiction of some kind (horror, fantasy, even a bit of SF). Almost all feature gay protagonists and antagonists, but the emotions they touch on and the life-moments they elicit are universal. Several take familiar stories and riff uniquely on them (for instance, "Bittersweet," which riffs on the story of the gingerbread man, and "Secrets of the Gwangi," which gives us a secret history of that great claymation dinosaur western "Valley of the Gwangi"). Only one, "Tearjerker," takes place in Berman's SF world The Fallen Area (visited previously in four of the stories in TRYSTS), a world I wish Berman would return to and develop more. "Tearjerker" is one of my favorite stories in the collection, alongside "Bittersweet," the disturbing "Well Wishing," which puts a different spin on the old trope of the lonely traveler who spends the night at a rural residence and is warned not to touch the farmer's daughter "or else," the longing-filled "Kinder," in which German brats infest a historical house and bedevil the live-in docent, and the playful-yet-dark "The High Cost for Tamarind," which takes place in an alternate London where the Fey thrive unseen among normal people. There are thirteen stories listed in the TOC, but the book actually contains fourteen stories. Each piece of fiction is followed by an Author's Note, but even here Berman cannot resist tweaking the trope: the author's notes taken together tell a story with as solid a thru-line and building tension as any of the book's stories, adding a nice depth to an already full single-author collection.
'Weird' is certainly the first word that comes to mind in describing this collection of thirteen of the author's extremely imaginative and diverse styled short stories, all with some sort of gay content. They range from futuristic tales (such as one set in a gay bar, frequented by gay men who are so obsessed with youth and trends that they resort to frequent plastic surgery to look just like the latest 'hot' younger guy they see or hear about), to a unique Victorian-era mystery featuring an 'Oliver!'-like waif. There are stories about a dead hustler's ghost accompanying his friend driving his remains to its final resting site, of a deadly troll on a mountain, of a lonely caretaker of an old house infested with furniture-eating children, and of the author's experimentation with heterosexuality while on trip to China with college classmates. Each story is followed by the author's explanatory epilogue, usually detailing where the idea came from (often experiences in his own life) and giving the reader additional perspective in reading the story, including several that were inspired by the author's unrequited love for a former straight roommate. This is the first work I have read by this uniquely-talented author, who is apparently known for these types of stories, and it likely won't be the last. Great escapist reads, more intriguing than scary. Give it a full five stars out of five.