“The Realm of the Dog” by Paul Luikart

This is a book of what can only be termed Short Fiction. Stories range from several pages down to, in one case, a single sentence. Thematically, they extend a fair stretch from the perfectly realistic into the realm of the surreal. But there is always enough reality present to keep you believing that maybe, if you read it one more time, you might understand it. But probably not. After all, total understanding is boring, isn’t it?

The main format is what other genres call the “slice of life” technique. Each tale is a glimpse into a moment, like a clip taken almost at random from a roll of film. As such, don’t expect an ending for all the stories. That lack may be the whole point of the tale.

The main theme in most of these works is one shared by surrealists and everyone else to some degree. We are perfectly normal, trying to cope with a meaningless world. A good example is the normal-length short story called “Religious People,” where a young evangelical couple start out knocking on the door of a prospective convert. By the end they find themselves, through a series of quite plausible steps, posed in a reenactment of the Crucifixion against his living room wall.

Near the end, the plotlines slide into the macabre, leaving us with an increasingly twisted view of life. The stories detail the strangest ways to die by crazy chance, all driven by the possibility that there is a logic behind it all. Maybe.

If I had any complaint, it’s the too-even tone of every story. It draws you in after a while, but you’re not sure you want to stay there for any length of time.

Recommended for fans of the surreal.

4 stars.

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