Alexander Zelenyj's Experiments at 3 Billion A.M. was published by Eibonvale Press in 2009. The 2nd edition was published in 2015. (This review is based on the 2nd edition.)
Information about Alexander Zelenyj:
Alexander Zelenyj is the author of the books Songs For The Lost, Experiments At 3 Billion A.M., Ballads To The Burning Twins: The Complete Song Lyrics Of The Deathray Bradburys, and Black Sunshine. His fiction has been published in magazines and anthologies throughout the world.
He lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about Experiments at 3 Billion A.M.:
Windblown wildernesses; celestial fire; women from the moon; inexplicable phenomena in sleeping counties and visions of blood amid mazes of urban sprawl; tales culled from subterranean depths, from the A.M. darkness and from stolen afternoons of nostalgic sunlight and weeping rains...
Zelenyj's haunting and surreal stories range widely in style, stretching from lyrical flights of fantasy to gritty and painful realism to unsettling horror and the grotesque – from subtle slipstream with only the faintest sense of the otherworldly to vivid space fiction, and even light-hearted homages to the colourful and gleeful world of the pulps. Always unexpected, these stories remain bound together by a tone of universal sadness and gentleness, and an ever-increasing sense of wonder. This massive collection of forty stories and over 650 pages, covering 10 years of work, will remain as a companion for a long time to come.
Each story has an illustrated titleplate. The hardcover is available with two different artworks - one, with very different cover art, that can only be ordered direct from the publisher and a standard version that can be sold anywhere. This publisher-only version also introduces our first 'barcode art' - which seeks to improve on those annoying black and white blocks that have to be slapped on book covers everywhere.
A REVIEW OF ALEXANDER ZELENYJ'S EXPERIMENTS AT 3 BILLION A.M.
Alexander Zelenyj's debut collection, Experiments at 3 Billion A.M., is one of those rare debut collections that are astonishingly beautiful, touching and unsettling. It's an exceptional collection of short stories featuring astonishing beauty, unyielding harshness and heartbreaking wistfulness. It's a bold and unique exploration of the human condition and the inner psyche of humans.
I was eager to read this collection, because I recently read Alexander Zelenyj's Songs for the Lost and enjoyed it immensely. I'm glad to say that this collection is every bit as good and amazing as Songs for the Lost and will please readers who are familiar with it. I read this collection twice before starting to write the review, because I was deeply impressed by the stories.
I first heard of Alexander Zelenyj when I read the Blind Swimmer anthology (Eibonvale Press, 2010) a couple of years ago. I enjoyed his story very much and wanted to read more of his stories. Now that I've read Experiments at 3 Billion A.M. and Songs for the Lost, I can mention that they have permanently confirmed my feelings about his writing skills and the vast scope of his imagination, because all of the stories in these collections are of the highest quality and deserve to be read.
Experiments at 3 Billion A.M. contains stories that range from fantasy and magical realism to horror and science fiction. The author uses different genres and styles to create original and captivating fiction. This collection has something to offer to everyone who loves beautifully written speculative fiction and thought-provoking literary fiction. It's a veritable feast of haunting weirdness and brutal tenderness. Most of the stories can generally be classified as literary strange fiction, but some of them can be classified as new weird fiction and slipstream fiction, because they contain elements of both genres.
Reading this collection feels a bit like exploring a whole new area of forest wilderness where you've never visited before and don't know what you will find there. When you begin to read this collection you honestly don't know what you will find in it, because the author surprises you with different kinds of beautiful and dark tales about love, loss, sorrow, sadness, loneliness and strangeness. The various stories offer fascinating glimpses into strange, mesmerising and disturbing things that are seldom explored in such a rich way.
Experiments at 3 Billion A.M. is a treasure trove of literary strangeness, because the author excels at writing stunningly beautiful stories with strange atmosphere. There's sweetness in these stories, but it is balanced by melancholia, brutality and weirdness. Finding this kind of speculative fiction collections in which style and substance are in perfect balance is - unfortunately - extremely difficult, so this collection is a real treat to readers.
This short story collection contains the following stories:
- The Potato Thief Beneath Indifferent Stars
- Blue Love Maria
- Black Flies Inside
- Footsteps to Blacken the Drifts
- The Stealing Sky
- The Mighty Ones Listen to the Night
- Let the Firefly Men Remind You
- Just Right Under Moonlight
- Teenage Pirates and the Ghosting of Texas
- The Loneliness of Strangefire Dancers
- Onwards! To Memphis!
- The Prison Hulk
- Gladiators in the Sepulchre of Abominations
- Night Symphonies
- The Burning Sadness of Crash-Landed Sleepers
- Tara of the Wine Cats
- In the City Where Dreams Wander the Sidewalks
- I Humbly Accept This War Stick
- Lost in the Penguin Tunnel
- The Lilac Perfumes Between the Stars
- Dreams of the Rocket-Boy
- Love, Death, and Monsters at the Drive-In
- Letters From the Laboratory
- The Snow Robins Fly Between Heaven and Hell
- The Silly Significance of Running With Soda Fire
- Waiting For the New Reign of the Fire Ants
- Pining for the Lost Love of the Moon Creatures
- The Empty Hands of Alvin Calvin Rourke
- Salty Magic Balloon Trips for the Moon to Judge
- The Runners Among the Stars
- Captain of a Ship of Flowers
- Pigeons or Ashes, and the Final Gift of Jimmy Colley
- The Animals Have Seized the Diamond Sea Kingdom
- The Grey Tammy and the Living
- Christina the Bloomed
- I Am the Stink Candle
- Grandmother Mars and the Relentless Call to Arms
- Where the War Bird Leads
- Another Light Called 1-47
- Poppy, the Girl of My Dreams, and the Alien Invasion I Can Detect Like Radar Through My Braces
All of these stories are stunningly beautiful and the prose is excellent. They feature different themes and styles, but all of them are amazing and memorable. The vast scope of the author's endless imagination can be seen in each of the stories, because he writes about almost anything and does it with ease and confidence. Readers will find playfulness and apocalyptic elements in these stories and can't help but marvel at their contents.
One of the things why I love these stories is that the author explores the darkest corners and recesses of the characters' lives and feelings in a profoundly memorable way without using clichéd storytelling and condescending platitudes. I dare say that the author has an uncanny ability to see into our souls and minds, because his stories have plenty of emotional depth and the power to make us think about life and its strangeness.
Here's more information about the stories and my thoughts about them (it's a bit difficult to write about some of the stories without spoilers, but I'll do my best to avoid them):
The Potato Thief Beneath Indifferent Stars:
- A story about a man who finds a strange and odd-coloured female being eating potatoes in his potato field.
- A beautifully written and sophisticatedly tender story about love, loss and wonders of nature.
Blue Love Maria:
- A story about a gruesome death of a teenaged boy and a girl who's linked to his death.
- The author writes perfectly about how real happenings turn into urban legends.
Black Flies Inside:
- A well written and unforgettable story about a man, sexual needs and cleanliness.
- The author writes unflichingly about sexual needs.
- This is one of the most memorable stories I've ever read, because the author approaches sexuality in a bold way.
Footsteps to Blacken the Drifts:
- In this story, a woman is awake during Christmas night while everyone else is asleep. The woman thinks about her life and her feelings.
- A beautifully written story with fascinatingly dark and sinister undertones.
The Stealing Sky:
- A story about a young man who leaves his wife and goes to live among the wolves in the northern Canada. He is visited by beings who leave him things.
- A stunningly effective story with a mysterious atmosphere.
- This story impressed me very much, because it was something different and the author wrote well about isolation.
The Mighty Ones Listen to the Night:
- A story about a couple who avoids hitting a horse and witnesses the nightly movements of animals.
- A wonderfully magical and enchanting story.
Let the Firefly Men Remind You:
- A detailed and beautifully written glimpse into the lives of two young women who share a bond with each other.
- The author writes engagingly about the women and what happens to them one night when glowing and flaming men suddenly appear.
Just Right Under Moonlight:
- A story about a man who reminisces about girls - especially about one girl - he used to know.
- This is a striking story with a dark undertone.
Teenage Pirates and the Ghosting of Texas:
- An unsettling story about hauntings that have happened on Texas Road.
- This is a well written ghost story with a fascinating feel of pulp to it.
The Loneliness of Strangefire Dancers:
- In this story, the author writes about Terrance and Samantha and their experiences.
- A wonderfully written story.
Onwards! To Memphis!:
- This is a fascinating story about a lonely and sad man.
- The author creates an intriguingly mysterious atmosphere with Egyptian elements.
The Prison Hulk:
- A story about prison ships on Thames during the War of Independence.
- This story has a good atmosphere. I think that people who are familiar with historical events related to the prison hulk penal system and the War of Independence will enjoy this story very much.
Gladiators in the Sepulchre of Abominations:
- A story about Billy who returns to his family home and its terrifying secret.
- An excellent and beautifully written story.
- I was very impressed by this story.
- In this short story, spiders observe men and their doings.
- A wonderful flash fiction story that reads almost like a fairy-tale.
The Burning Sadness of Crash-Landed Sleepers:
- A story about Christine and Sharon who discover smoking hills during their nightly treks.
- A perfectly written weird story.
Tara of the Wine Cats:
- An interesting story about a woman who tells her sexual partners that she's a robot.
- The author writes well about feelings related to sexuality.
In the City Where Dreams Wander the Sidewalks:
- This is an unsettling story about a man who abducts teenagers from streets.
- A well written story with a fascinatingly strange and twisted atmosphere.
- This is one of the most impressive stories in this collection.
I Humbly Accept This War Stick:
- A short, but intense and powerful horror story about what can happen in the city.
- There was something about this story that reminded me a bit of the stories written by Allen Ashley.
Lost in the Penguin Tunnel:
- In this story, a tourist guide at the penguin exhibit meets two children who are fascinated by penguins.
- An interesting short story that differs from the other stories.
The Lilac Perfumes Between the Stars:
- A story about Clem who's travelling to meet alien girls called Sibyl and Jenny. He is instructed to collect flowers for the girls.
- This intriguing story has a brilliantly harsh and memorable ending.
Dreams of the Rocket-Boy:
- A wonderful science fiction themed flash fiction story.
- This story demonstrates that flash ficton stories are - at their best - very intriguing.
Love, Death, and Monsters at the Drive-In:
- A story about Monica and Johnny D. who watch movie at the drive-in and discuss things.
- This story has an interesting and a bit unexpected ending.
Letters From the Laboratory:
- A brilliant short story that consists of letters written by a man who worked in a school laboratory. The letters are intriguing glimpses into the man's life and work.
- This story reminds me a bit of Douglas Thompson's stories.
- This is one of the best stories in this collection.
The Snow Robins Fly Between Heaven and Hell:
- An extremely well written and deeply gripping story about suffering and memories.
- This is one of the best and msote memorable stories in this anthology.
The Silly Significance of Running With Soda Fire:
- A story about a man who spends his life running.
- An interesting and a bit different kind of a story.
Waiting For the New Reign of the Fire Ants:
- This is an excellent story about a possible alien invasion, because the author plays nicely with the idea of what is real and imagination.
- The author writes well about the happenings and creates an intense atmosphere.
Pining for the Lost Love of the Moon Creatures:
- In this story, Dan misses a girl who went back to the moon.
- A wonderful short story about pining for a person.
The Empty Hands of Alvin Calvin Rourke:
- An intriguingly different kind of a story that is a documentation of the life of Alvin Calvin Rourke, written by himself.
- The author writes entertainingly about the protagonist's ability to talk to cockroaches when he is drunk.
Salty Magic Balloon Trips for the Moon to Judge:
- A story about Myrrha, who loves to dance outdoors, and her relationship with her father.
- This is a well written and a bit different kind of a short story.
The Runners Among the Stars:
- In this story, Stephen has taken his family on a trip, but their vacation has gone awry, because they've come to a strange place with foreign stars above them.
- I enjoyed reading about the happenings, because the author wrote well about Stephen and how he felt about the happenings.
- I was impressed by this story and its strange atmosphere.
Captain of a Ship of Flowers:
- This is an intriguing and charmingly different kind of a story about space exploration.
- A science fiction story with a fantastic sense of wonder.
Pigeons or Ashes, and the Final Gift of Jimmy Colley:
- A story about boys who miss their friend, Jimmy, who has died.
- This story has an excellent and melancholy atmosphere.
The Animals Have Seized the Diamond Sea Kingdom:
- In this story, a man has degrading and perverse sex with women.
- This is a memorable, gritty and dark story about sexual perversions.
The Grey Tammy and the Living:
- This story is a glimpse into the life of Tammy. It is told from the point of view of Tammy's friend.
- An interesting story about a woman who seems to come truly alive during the weekends and spends the week "hibernating".
Christina the Bloomed:
- A well told story about a relationship between a mother and a son.
- This story is difficult to forget once you've read it, because it has been written in a striking way.
I Am the Stink Candle:
- A unique and interesting story about a terrible stink that causes problems.
- I don't remember another story quite like this before.
Grandmother Mars and the Relentless Call to Arms:
- A story about Kelsey and his grandmother, who seems to be insane and believes that she has been visited by gods of war.
- An intriguing and well told story.
Where the War Bird Leads:
- An interesting short story set in colonial Burma.
- Just like "The Prison Hulk", this story will be of interest to readers who are familiar with historical events.
Another Light Called 1-47:
- A fascinating and almost idyllic story about Angela, her life thoughout the years and her connection to the rocket 1-47.
- This is one of the best stories in this collection.
Poppy, the Girl of My Dreams, and the Alien Invasion I Can Detect Like Radar Through My Braces:
- In this story, two girls read a journal written by the boy next door and think that he's a bit crazy, because he writes about aliens who are planning on invading Earth.
- This is a perfect final story.
Here are a few extra words about some of the stories:
"The Potato Thief Beneath Indifferent Stars" is one of the most beautifully written speculative fiction stories I've ever read. The author writes tenderly and touchingly about a man who finds a strange female being and takes care of her. There's genuine heartfelt emotion and affection in this story that is so often lacking from many speculative fiction stories.
"Black Flies Inside" is a story, which is quite difficult to forget once you've read it. It's a dark and disturbing glimpse into the mind of a man who has sexual needs and an obsession with cleanliness. This dark story impressed me, because it had lots of raw and untamed power.
"The Stealing Sky" gets a special mention from me, because it's a brilliant story about isolation. The author writes engagingly about the protagonist and his strange experiences in the far northern Canadian wilderness. It was fascinating to read about the beings that visited him and left him things.
"Let the Firefly Men Remind You" is one of the strongest stories I've ever read, because the author creates a mesmerising vision of a haunted Canadian summer. He tells of what happens to two young women and their friends on one summer night when glowing and flaming men come to kidnap two of them. This story evokes an intriguing sense of wonder and fear in the reader.
"Gladiators in the Sepulchre of Abominations" is also a strong and achingly beautiful story. It's a story about Billy who returns to his lonely family home and reminisces about its terrifying secret. The author writes excellently about the relationship between Billy and his father. This story has a powerful and touching ending that will linger on the reader's mind.
"The Runners Among the Stars" is excellent and beautifully written weird fiction. It's not your usual kind of weird fiction, but it can be classified as such, because it tells of Stephen who has taken his family on vacation, but everything has gone wrong. When Stephen and his family find themselves in a strange place and see foreign stars above them, nothing stays the same and everything changes for them. What is revealed about the Runners that are mentioned in the title of this story is interesting.
"Pigeons or Ashes, and the Final Gift of Jimmy Colley" is a beautifully written and melancholy story about boys who miss their dead friend. The author writes perfectly about how the boys feel about their friend and how he treated them.
There's a bit of a Lovecraftian feel of strangeness and otherness to some of the stories, because the author doesn't necessarily explain everything, but lets his readers make their own assumptions of certaing things. I like this kind of storytelling, because it's very effective.
Alexander Zelenyj uses horror and weird elements in an excellent way. He's one of the few authors who have the ability to create a genuinely unsettling atmosphere by writing about murderers, dead people and brutal happenings etc. Although there are a few explicitly violent scenes in these stories, it's great that the author never goes overboard with brutality, because psychological brutality is much more effective a tool to create unease than overly detailed depictions of physical brutality.
One of the most important things why I love and praise these stories is that the author doesn't underestimate the intelligence of his readership. He writes intelligent stories that will appeal to readers who love intelligent speculative fiction and are willing to invest time in reading them. These stories are not easy stories, because they've been written for thinking adults who want to read quality.
I like the way the author turns simple and mundane things into something magical and touching. In his hands, even the most ordinary happenings may become extraordinary and haunting. He explores supernatural and weird happenings with ease and describes fluently how the characters experience these phenomena. The supernatural happenings are in perfect balance with gritty and unyielding realism, because the author uses reality and everyday life as a basis for his stories and seasons them with magical realism and fantastical elements, but never loses sight of what he's writing about.
The characters in these stories have strong emotions that haunt them. They've experienced something that has shaken their lives and affected their minds. Some of the characters reminisce about lost loved ones and try to survive after weird and heartbreaking incidents. Some of them have experienced achingly painful things and silently yearn for those whom they have lost and loved the most.
I'm honestly amazed at the Alexander Zelenyj's ability to write about feelings and emotions in an engaging and touching yet harsh way. Sadness, melancholy, wistfulness, love, loss, loneliness and brutality meet each other with stunning power in these stories. There's subtle and vivid brutality in the author's descriptions and he writes fluently about raw human emotions. This kind of an approach to difficult themes and issues feels invigoratingly refreshing, because there's no need to sugarcoat the happenings. The author addresses painful memories and human emotions in such a tender yet disturbing way that the readers can't help but be impressed by his descriptions. He clearly seems to understand what it means to be human and how much suffering and sadness humans can endure without falling apart.
The author writes unflinchingly about sex and sexuality. Some of his descriptions are surprisingly bold and uninhibited while others are very dark and disturbing. He uses sex in a believable and realistic way, and he demonstrates how much lust, sensuality and eroticism we can feel towards each other. It's possible that some of the descriptions may be a bit too graphic for those who are easily shocked, but that's the beauty of this collection. The author doesn't try to please everybody, but concentrates on writing memorable stories that evoke strong feelings of unease and wonder in the readers.
In these stories, sensuality seems to be nicely balanced by rawness. There's nothing artificial or overbearing about the author's descriptions about these issues, because everything feels strangely realistic yet slightly detached from reality. These stories have exquisite tenderness and harsh brutality that will haunt readers for a long time after the last story has been read.
Alexander Zelenyj writes beautiful, evocative and nuanced prose, which flows elegantly and effortlessly. There's plenty of depth and layers in his prose. His writing style can best be described as hauntingly beautiful and intriguing. Along with Brendan Connell, Douglas Thompson, Nina Allan, David Rix, Christopher Barzak, D.P. Watt, Quentin S. Crips and other similar authors, he's part of the elite group of speculative fiction authors who write quality stories for adults and dare to make readers think about the happenings.
I think that everybody who loves dark and beautifully written speculative will enjoy the author's eloquent writing style. He uses beautiful, evocative and nuanced prose to create a dream-like and unsettling atmosphere that wonderfully highlights the strangeness of the happenings and the vulnerability of the characters.
When I read these stories, I noticed that there was something in them that slightly reminded me of stories written by Ray Bradbury, Richard Matherson, Ramsey Campbell and other classic authors. Some of the stories feel almost like homages to these masters of speculative fiction, but the author doesn't emulate anybody's writing style. He writes original and exciting fiction that wonderfully differs from mainstream speculative fiction.
The cover and interior art by David Rix looks great. David Rix's art perfectly fits this collection and emphasises its strangeness.
I consider Alexander Zelenyj to be one of the best and most talented authors of speculative fiction. He's a unique author who writes beautiful and touching stories, but is also capable of writing unflinchingly harsh and disturbing stories. His stories have a touch of terrifying darkness in them. I look forward to reading more stories written by him, because his stories are excellent and atmospheric.
Experiments at 3 Billion A.M. gets the highest possible recommendation from me, because it's something different, memorable and extraordinary. It gives readers glimpses into the lives, feelings and secrets of different people who experience strange things and deal with losses in their own ways.
Alexander Zelenyj's Experiments at 3 Billion A.M. is an enchanting and impressive short story collection filled with literary stories and mesmerising strangeness. If you haven't yet read anything by Alexander Zelenyj, please read this short story collection and Songs for the Lost as soon as possible, because you'll love them. I highly recommend this stunning short story collection to all readers who love quality fiction, because it's a refreshingly original and different kind of a collection. It's a must-read collection to lovers of strange stories.