Friday, September 7, 2012

Unexpected Applause: Chasing the Sandman

Way back at the beginning of the year, I did a review on a book by the guys over at A Beer for the Shower. It's a good book, so you should all click the link, read the review, and go buy the book. But that's not what we're here to talk about today.

Today, we're here to talk about the first solo release of the Brandon half of the Beer team, Chasing the Sandman
This is a collection of short stories that Brandon has written over the years and finally collected into one place. As such, I mean, as such that it is short stories, I should probably say right here at the beginning that I'm not the biggest fan of short stories. Which is not to say that there have not been some that I've really enjoyed or even some that have been very influential in my life, but, mostly, I just feel like there's not enough to them, so I tend to avoid short story collections. It's also why, I suppose, that I don't really write short stories either. What I think is going to be a short story when I start out always becomes something bigger than that (The Evil That Men Do is a good example).

Now that everyone is expecting me to trash the book, let's get to the technicals. As is generally the case with independently published books, this one could have used an editor; however, it wasn't too bad. Other than  the repeated issue with the comma after the conjunction with an independent clause following (my current peeve), there were no consistent errors. Just the occasional typo and left out word. All in all, it's a pretty good job that would say is a B. If not for that one comma thing, I'd say a B+ to an A-, but, then, there's the comma thing. That's probably a bigger issue for me than, well, pretty much everyone else, though (and I have a whole post about commas coming up; won't that be fun!).

But let's look at the book itself. Great title, right? I think it's a great title. My only issue with it is that it didn't seem to have any relation to the stories within the book. Often, with a collection like this as with the title of an album, the title will have something to do with a theme for the stories or with one story  in particular. There are no stories with the same title nor is the line used anywhere, so, unless I missed the theme, it's just a cool title. I'm not sure how I feel about that, although I'm sure it won't bother a lot of people. That's probably just me and my hang up with titles, but you can blame that on Samuel Delaney.

Jumping into the book, though, there is a lot of good to be said about it. Most of the stories are quite good with a twist that you can see coming but can't quite figure out. It makes them interesting in a way that most things of this genre are not. In fact, I'd love to go through them individually, but I don't think I could say anything of substance about them that wouldn't give away more than you'd want to know, so I'm not going to do that.

I will say that the first story hooked me immediately, for reasons I can't say, and kept me going even though... well, see, I can't say that, either. What I can say is that "Graveyard Shift" is a freaky story even though I think it probably shouldn't be, and that says a lot for the author. It made my skin crawl, and I'm not even afraid of... yeah, see, I can't say that.

"Runaway Train" is unusual and sad. Sort of a unique perspective.

"Spirit House" is great even though I saw where it was going. But, see, it's one of those that I really wanted to be longer. I felt stifled by the shortness of it.

"Spirit of Christmas" is one where you think you know what's going to happen but the author pulls one over on you. You know there must be some twist coming, but you just can't figure out what it could be, and, then, when it happens, you smack your forehead. Brilliant!

Amidst all the horror slips "Into the Deep," a great little sci-fi piece that hints at a lot more. There's a bigger story there, but the one that's told is a good one.

"Seeking Shade" is great. I probably have a particular fondness for it due it's shadowy theme. There are some interesting things going on there and more to be told, I'm sure.

And I loved "1st Appearance"! The comic book thing is right up my alley and is the kind of thing any comic nerd dreams about. Okay, well, probably the second thing any comic nerd dreams about, but we can't talk about the first one in polite company. Okay, so, really, the main thing any comic nerd dreams about is getting super powers, but if you leave that one off the list... Just forget that I'm talking. Except keep reading.

All of that aside, the story I liked most, "Spilled Ink," was also the one I was frustrated with. It's a great example of what I think of as a story that's too short. It's a great idea and well written, except the author makes a couple leaps of logic that I have to assume were made to the story an acceptable length, except that I would much rather that it be twice as long or three times as long to get all the story in there rather than have it be whittled down. So I think it's a great story, but it's definitely too short.

As is the last story, "Denatured," although I didn't like that one as much. However, I might have liked it a lot more if it didn't fee so sparse. The ironic thing about that is that I think "Spilled Ink" and "Denatured" are the longest stories in the collection.

With 21 shorts, there were only a few that I didn't care for at all, and, I think, that's saying something. Generally speaking, for me, in a collection like this, I'd only be finding a few a actually liked, and I'd be dismissing the rest as inconsequential, but this whole collection, for the most part, really kept me going.

If you like horror and suspense, this is definitely something you should check out. You can see hints of the humor and wording from The Missing Link in here, and that, to me, is very interesting. Interesting in that I can see how the Brandon half of Beer works with the Bryan half to make their stuff work. But, again, that's probably just me. Overall, I'd give the collection a good B hedging to the higher side of the B. The stories are definitely above average and do a good job of defying expectations. You go read it and let me know which ones you like best. That's kind of the most fun with short story collections anyway. Especially if you love one that I hated. Okay, so I didn't hate any of them, but, with 21 stories, there have to be a few on the lower end of the scale.

And remember to come back on Monday!
For the FREE! release of


  1. I know Brandon from Beer in the Shower! Think he'll be happy with your review.

  2. That's pretty good, if you're happy with more than a few stories in an entire collection. I've bought albums where I only liked one song. And I bought G.R.R.M.'s collection of short stories (he was editor), Songs of Love and Something...I only liked a few in that, and those were all written by best-selling authors. So that's a pretty good recommendation.

    Also, I'm in denial over my use of the comma. Not sure I'm ready for a reality post on it from you. :P

  3. Short story collections are hard to stick with from cover to cover. Generally if I'm going to read that many pages, I like it to be a single cohesive piece of work. But you've given this pretty high marks with only a few caveats. And coming from another published author, that's pretty good.

    I'll definitely be back on Monday to score that free book. Have a good weekend Andrew!

  4. It sounds as thought it's a pretty good collection overall. I like that you broke down the review into individual reviews of some of the short stories; gives you a better sense of what the anthology is actually about.

  5. I love short stories. I will most likely be checking this out soon.

  6. I can't wait to read it! But I do like horror short stories. It's really good if most of the stories in a collection are liked; I've read so many where there were one or two strong stories, with the rest being filler.

  7. Alex: Well, I hope so. I haven't heard anything yet, so I can only hope.

    L.G.: There have been a few songs I've been willing to buy a while album for knowing that the rest is crap. And I've bought collections for single stories, too; the trick there is to try the rest even though you don't necessarily care to.

    On the comas: heh It's not as bad as you might think.

    Anne: I'm the same; I like longer stuff.
    You have a great weekend, too!

    TGE: I kind of wanted to do each story, but it would have made the post too long, and some of them couldn't really be talked about without giving them away.

    Michael: I'm sure Brandon will appreciate it.

    Shannon: You ought to like the 1st one. Let me know if you spot the "Easter egg."

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  9. I tend to not like short stories that much myself, but sometimes magic happens and they're amazing. Glad Brandon has released the collection.

  10. I don't read short stories unless they're by an author I know. However, I've developed a fascination with novellas which is (nearly) the same thing :)

  11. Rusty: Well, individually, I can like a short story just fine. I suppose it's just collections of them I am not as fond of.

    ravena: It is nearly the same thing. That's interesting.

  12. Once again, thanks for reading, Andrew. Sorry it's taken me so long, but I did link to the review in our post for today.



  13. ABftS: Oh, hey, no problem. And I just discovered that the link to the book didn't make it through to the post! I'm not really sure how that happened, so I'll go fix it now, although it's kind of late for that.