YOU SHALL NEVER KNOW SECURITY, J.R. HAMANTASCHEN
I want to personally thank Jonathan Raab for a post he wrote about the awesomeness of J.R. Hamantaschen’s first short story collection, YOU SHALL NEVER KNOW SECURITY, on Facebook. I decided to jump in without knowing anything about JRH, and after devouring the entire book, my mind is blown by the depth and originality on display throughout these 13 DARK tales.
I suppose Hamantaschen’s stuff would fall somewhere in the Bizarro category, due to the exuberantly weird and outlandish elements that make up many of his plots and scenarios. A title like “There is A Family of Gnomes Behind My Walls, And I Swear I Won’t Disappoint Them Anymore” is a giveaway. But then, the story itself though breezy and energetic like the best Bizarro stuff, is also a cosmic horror story, and a deep look at how people view themselves and how that view is built almost entirely on the supposed view we think others have of us. Scary, funny, deep, and original as heck. Such a good combination!
In another stand out, “Sorrow Has Its Natural End”, we meet two young men affected by myopia (the actual eye ailment, not a metaphor). One is successful, who’s affliction has been cured through experimental surgery, while the main character is almost completely blind, and desperately lonely. This is one of those stories that goes to places I would never have guessed in a million years, and is full of painfully honest psychological descriptions. As in PAINFULLY HONEST. When these two meet, the shifting thoughts and feelings each convey as they have a stilted conversation, is deeply uncomfortable. And the ending–AIYEEE!!!
That’s one the great hallmarks of Hamantaschen’s work: he’s got exceptional chops with creepy, dark, speculative fiction elements, which is equaled only by the psychological depth of his character work. A good example of both these strengths is “There Must Be Lights Burning Brighter, Somewhere”, which deals with cosmic horrors attacking a campus bar in Austin, Texas. The descriptions of the invading creatures are painterly brilliance:
“There was too much going on, too many whizzing adornments. His eyes moved several feet northward, to the top of the mound, which was covered with what appeared to be smooth obelisks, calcified deposits that looked like porcelain beehives, stacked and interspersed into each other in unfathomable detail.”
And then he spends a great deal of the time with the three survivors, exploring the shifting thoughts and feelings they have about one another, how they are attempting to use psychological memory to make sense of an event that DOESN’T make sense. This is, of course, all happening while they are surrounded by madness at every turn and attempting to somehow survive!
This book is like having your cake and eating it too! (As long as your cake involves really dark fiction coupled with painfully astute observations on the human predicament, cosmic weirdness, and black humor amped up to eleven billion). Such a breath of fresh air, and a total classic in my book.