I almost forgot how much I enjoy short stories. There’s something so special and ephemeral about them that you don’t really get with novels. So when Inkberry Books recommended Greg Sanders’ collection of short stories “The Suffering of Lesser Mammals,” I was pleasantly reminded.
(Sorry y’all, no vlog this week, Licea a bit crazy!)
A short collection at just under 150 pages and 13 stories, “Mammals” is both unique and intriguing. Each story mixes the concepts and feel of “The Twilight Zone”, “Doctor Who” or fairy tales. For example, in “Prague’s Children,” a man and his colleagues are mysteriously transformed into bugs; and in “A Blintz on Ross 128b,” another man inherits an exoplanet and has gone with the space crew to see if it can be colonized.
Not all of the stories involve overnight transformations and space travel, and yet, each is contemplative and thoughtful. Although each story stands alone, together they share a need to capture a glimmer of humanity, while pushing the envelope and making the reader think. For example:
What if I lived alone in my family’s old apartment, with no job, “writing” a play that will likely never be completed?
What if I had a car that became the center of my world, and yet it owns me as much as I own it?
What if I awoke one day with this incredibly odd overpowering urge to go to a stranger’s house?
It’s an unusual collection–certainly unlike any other that I’ve read, but it’s incredibly engaging. I love the description, I love the premise, I love the individuality.
I could do with a little more dialogue, however. Since so many of the stories are character-driven, I would have given readers an inside look into their thoughts, lives and interactions with other characters through more dialogue. Perhaps that’s why I liked “Prague” and “Ross 128b” so much. The characters didn’t feel so lonely like characters in some of the other short stories. Instead, these characters were faced with unusual circumstances, we see their thought processes, and we also see how they and other characters choose to deal with the unexpected.
There’s just something fantastical and a little unsettling about the premise of each story, and Sanders’ descriptive, almost poetic writing style reels the reader in and keeps them hooked.
If you’re more a fan of realistic , rather than speculative fiction, this might not be the set of short stories for you. But it’s so unique and eclectic, I think most readers would find at least one story they’d enjoy. Overall, I definitely enjoyed the collection.
“Mammals” is an ideal book for those who like the unusual and hypothetical. Many of the stories seem sci-fi-adjacent, which is a fun way to be exposed to the genre if you aren’t usually a sci-fi reader. I also really like the fact that since each story stands alone, you can take your time and think about one story at a time or you can fly through them all because you might be wondering, “Can it get any more interesting than the last one?”
I’ll be taking August off of weekly reviews but keep an eye out for any surprise posts 😉