EXPERIMENTS AT 3 BILLION A.M. by Alexander Zelenyj (2009 Ebionvale Press / 658 pp. / hc)
2 questions immediately popped into my mind when I lifted this hefty volume out of its box: Who in the world is Alexander Zelenyj? -and- A 658-page hardcover short story collection? Not that lengthy shorts collections are non-existent (i.e. Tom Piccirilli's DEEP INTO THAT DARKNESS PEERING), but one from a relatively unknown author is a kind-of ballsy move on the part of the publisher.
So I started with David Rix's brief Foreword (I had no idea who he was, either) before diving into the first story, 'The Potato Thief Beneath Indifferent Stars.' I was pleasantly surprised at both the writing and the unusually tender nature of what the editor chose for the lead off entry: this thing could go anywhere from here . . . and it does.
There's 40 stories, 20 published for the first time. Most deal with isolation and are hard to classify; Zelenyj jumps from sci-fi to horror to fantasy to bizarro, many times within the same story.
Highlights include 'Black Flies Inside,' a warped muse on obsession; 'Teenage Pirates and the Ghosting of Texas,' a wickedly fun pulp-style horror yarn; 'Let the Firefly Men Remind You,' a wonderfully eerie tale that puts a nice spin on the alien encounter thing, and 'In the City Where Dreams Wander the Sidewalks' where the author displays his skill of suggestion, here crafting a surreal tale of people's lives transformed by a mysterious man.
The final story (featured here in white font on black paper) is one of the best. 'Poppy, the Girl of My Dreams, and the Alien Invasion I can Detect Like Radar Through My Braces' is a quick yet fantastic apocalyptic, scifi love story with a genuinely heartbreaking finale.
EXPERIMENTS AT 3 BILLION A.M. surprised me from beginning to end. While it took me a while to get through its massive length (and the few head-scratchers), the majority of this fine collection is quite impressive, especially coming from an author I knew nothing about. Recommended.