“A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs and Other Stories” by Andrew Kozma

Before discussing this set of short stories, it might be useful to make a note about Surrealism. Not that these stories purport to fall under that label, but their appeal may be described in the same terms.

Surrealism has never been, and cannot ever be, defined without resorting to incredible intellectual and pseudo-scientific gobbledygook, although the proponents of the philosophy argued about a definition to the point of physical conflict. Which is a great demonstration of the medium being the message.

The most common expectation of Surrealism is that it will contain images and ideas that are dream-like. Most often it will demonstrate a joining of those elements in ways that jar and surprise the viewer. I assume that the surprise is intended to jolt people out of their everyday perceptions and view the world in a new way.

Thus the appeal of Surrealistic works, and of these stories, is in their creativity. Any other expectation is fruitless. They cannot be expected to be whimsical, or humorous, or dark, but often they are. The purposeful lack of a straight line of logic leaves readers with the opportunity to take away any conclusion we like.

These stories, like many Surrealistic works of art, develop images and settings that are mostly realistic and logical, except for one or two minor differences, which in the end make all the difference. One story is about a stereotypical prison camp, but there is a simplistic element to the setting that makes us certain that the author means something by the isolation, the regimentation and the creative method of escape, and it’s up to us to figure out what. The second story has something to do with facing something. Again, who knows what? The third and most Science Fiction-like deals with all the possible possibilities of you as a person. And death. And a bunch of other stuff. You’ll just have to read it.

And the title story, the one about the slugs, details a setting that is incredibly like what I experienced travelling into East Berlin in 1970. Until the girl’s head splits in half.

…well, what do you expect?

If I had to state a preference, I would have to say that I am attracted more to the whimsical side of Surrealism, and I found this work to be too even in tone, like a setting all depicted in similar shades of brown and grey. I prefer to be jolted by a splash of yellow or red once in a while. No matter the style, art is meant to take us on an emotional journey, and the scenery on this little jaunt doesn’t vary as much as it might.

Recommended for those who like stories with melting clock faces and giant cockroaches.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)


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