Simon Strantzas' Nothing is Everything was published by Undertow Publicatons in October 2018.
Information about Simon Strantzas:
Simon Strantzas is the author of Nothing is Everything (Undertow Publications, 2018), Burnt Black Suns (Hippocampus Press, 2014), Nightingale Songs (Dark Regions Press, 2011), Cold to the Touch (Tartarus Press, 2009), and Beneath the Surface (Humdrumming, 2008), as well as the editor of Aickman’s Heirs (Undertow Publications, 2015), a finalist for both the World Fantasy and British Fantasy Awards, and winner of the Shirley Jackson Award. He also edited Shadows Edge (Gray Friar Press, 2013), and was the guest editor of The Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 3 (Undertow Publications, 2016). His writing has been reprinted in Best New Horror, The Best Horror of the Year, The Year’s Best Weird Fiction and The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, and published in Nightmare, Cemetery Dance, Postscripts, and elsewhere. His short story, “Pinholes in Black Muslin”, was a finalist for the British Fantasy Award, and his collection, Burnt Black Suns, a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award. He lives with his wife in Toronto, Canada.
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about Nothing is Everything:
Nothing is Everything is the masterful new collection from acclaimed Canadian author Simon Strantzas. With elegant craftsmanship Strantzas delicately weaves a disquieting narrative through eerie and unexpected landscapes, charting an uncanny course through territories both bleak and buoyant, while further cementing his reputation as one of the finest practitioners of strange tales.
REVIEW: NOTHING IS EVERYTHING BY SIMON STRANTZAS
As a devoted fan of all things dark and weird, I was delighted to read Simon Strantzas' Nothing is Everything. I found it to be an impressive collection with lush literary weirdness and excellent prose. It chillingly demonstrates that darkness and weirdness come in many forms and strange things can happen anywhere. Realism, uncertainty and strangeness collide and intersect in an exceptionally beautiful and haunting way in this collection.
After reading the Simon Strantzas' previous collection, Burnt Black Suns, I was almost certain that it would be difficult for the author to top it in terms of quality and originality, but I was wrong. This collection is even better than the previous collection, because its contents feel more mature and the author has reached a new peak in his writing skills by writing something slightly different.
The contents of this collection are peppered with spellbinding imagery, eerie atmosphere, heartfelt bleakness and sense of isolation. When you reach the end of this collection, you'll feel deeply rewarded by what you've read, because the author has guided you through strange landscapes and odd territories in a captivating way and has led you towards the strongly pulsing heart of disquieting weirdness.
Nothing is Everything contains the following stories:
- In This Twilight (original to this collection)
- Our Town's Talent (original to this collection)
- These Last Embers
- The Flower Unfolds
- Ghost Dogs (original to this collection)
- In the Tall Grass
- The Fifth Stone
- The Terrific Mr. Toucan (original to this collection)
- Alexandra Lost
- All Reality Blossoms in Flames (original to this collection)
These diverse stories are wonderfully fresh and original with a distinct touch of modern weirdness and seductively dark undertones. They're fascinating, touching and haunting stories, because they're filled with slow-burning weirdness and they offer the reader alluring glimpses of transcendence and otherwordliness.
The author masterfully writes about detachment, isolation and brokenness. I find his descriptions of the characters' feelings and experiences touching and oddly beautiful, because he delves into their secrets and tells of things that weigh upon their souls. It's great that he explores the characters' lives in an insightful way, because it adds a layer of depth to the stories.
The events in these stories take place in everyday locales: bus terminals, childhood homes, small towns, art galleries etc. Although the locales are mundane, the author uses them to display unexpected sights, wonders and terrors, lending them an air of unsettling strangeness.
Here's more information about the stories and my thoughts about them:
In This Twilight:
- A story about a university student, Harriet Myers, who decides to travel home. When she is waiting for a bus, she begins a conversation with a young and unshaven man who has been sleeping at the bus terminal. When the bus arrives, the man also comes aboard the bus and Harriet finds herself having a bizarre conversation with him...
- The author writes captivatingly and thought-provokingly about darkness and evokes an atmosphere that echoes unease and dark promise.
- I found myself captivated by how Harriet began to understand certain things when she talked with the man and revealed what had happened to her.
- This beautifully written story is one of the finest examples of literary weird fiction one could ever hope to find, because it has that distinct feel of subtle weirdness to it that makes it seductively strange and immersive.
Our Town's Talent:
- A story about a small town's annual talent show and the unexpected consequences of the town having another talent show.
- The author writes incredibly well about what the children do in the talent show and how the mothers feel about the show. He also writes excellently about the town, because the town could any small town anywhere in the world, because it's a place where nothing changes and people have become settled in their lives.
- This story has accurate and insightful commentary concerning talent shows.
- The ending is filled with a strange sense of awakening and connection, because the wives and mothers, who have for a long time been prisoners of their own routines, rediscover and understand their power.
These Last Embers:
- A story about Samantha who, after losing her job in the city, returns to her childhood home and tries to reconnect with her parents and twin brother, Lemule. When she arrives home, she notices that the house has been damaged by fire. She also notices that Lemule is absent and when she enters his room, an impossible and strange sight awaits her there.
- The author writes touchingly about why Samantha left her parents and how she feels about coming back home and meeting her twin brother.
- I was impressed by what Samantha found in her brother's room, because the sight was utterly bizarre.
- This story is an excellent and memorable tale with strong slipstream elements.
The Flower Unfolds:
- In this story, Candice Lourdes finds a botanical garden at the top of the Simpson Tower. After finding the garden and meeting a mysterious man, Ben Stanley, Candice's life begins to change.
- Finding the garden and meeting the man serve as catalysts for a needed change, because Candice is a shy person and her life has been controlled and uneventful. I enjoyed reading about how Candice began to blossom as she boldly embraced the unknown and let the shackles of her old life fade away.
- This is an atmospheric, wonderfully strange and touching story about change and awakening.
- This dark story tells of a teenage girl and his friends who decide to find a ghost dog, because they want to see one.
- There's an intriguingly apocalyptic feel to this story, because it tells of a town that has suffered some kind of an apocalypse. The residents of the town suffer from heat and are being attacked and harassed by ghost dogs.
- This story has an emotional and surprisingly deep impact on the reader, because it is told from the protagonist's point of view. The author offers the reader a fascinating glimpse inside the protagonist's mind and explores how she feels about her life, her friends and the town.
- I liked this story very much, because it's something different and the ending is excellent.
In the Tall Grass:
- This story tells of Reiter and Heike who live on the farm. Heike prays for Reiter to be saved, but he dies and is buried in the tall grass at the edge of the farm. Later, Baum is born. He is a strange and odd-looking son made of branches and twigs. One day, Heike decides to take Baum to the city in her truck.
- I find this story an incredibly strong and touching tale of love and loneliness, and of being different. I was taken by its sad and heart-breaking atmosphere.
- This is one of the most beautifully written and most captivating weird tales I've ever had the pleasure of reading. (You can't help but be touched by this story, because it's incredibly beautiful and sad.)
The Fifth Stone:
- In this story, a girl finds strange stones that cause her seizures and pain. When she becomes adult, she forgets the stones for many years. After her husband dies, she finds the fifth stone in his belongings and becomes obsessed by it and the other stones again.
- I was taken by the author's fluent way of writing about the protagonist's life and how she coped with what happened to her, because the seizures and the pain became a part of her life. I was also impressed by the protagonist's obsession over the stones, because her situation felt intriguingly unnerving due to her being unable to get the stones out of her mind when she found the fifth stone.
- I loved the ending, because it's chillingly nightmarish and satisfyingly weird. I won't reveal what happens at the end, but I can guarantee that it doesn't disappoint anybody.
- This is a memorable story that fans of weird fiction will be eager to read.
The Terrific Mr. Toucan:
- In this brilliant story, a married couple is celebrating their 30th anniversary. Jeffrey takes his wife to Millhaven Theatre for a dinner and a magic show. The evening's perfomance is anything but impressive, but during the second half of the show things change and become something wholly different.
- The wife's thoughts about her daughter, Molly, bring depth and melancholy to the story.
- The author's way of combining fantasy elements and drama is truly captivating and works perfectly.
- A story about Alexandra Leaving who is driving with her boyfriend, Leonard, towards the coast. During the journey, Alexandra is worried that they'll get lost and is terrified about what her boyfriend has told her about feeling completely insignificant while witnessing the immensity of the ocean.
- In this story, the author paints a vivid picture of how interested Leonard is in seeing the ocean and taking Alexandra there for the first time. What happens between Alexandra and Leonard is handled excellently, because there's a gradually deepening sense of dread to the narrative which reaches its culmination at the end.
- As a big fan of Lovecraftian weirdness, I was deeply impressed by this story and its atmosphere. I find this story fresh and compelling, because it's filled with quiet horror and the ending is deeply satisfying in its weirdness.
- This novella-length story is a masterful addition to Lovecraftian weird fiction.
All Reality Blossoms in Flames:
- This final story tells about Mae Olsen, an art restorer, who meets a mysterious man called Halton Graves at a gala. Mae finds out that the man has connections to Enfants Terrible, which is a group of people dedicated to stealing and vandalising artwork. Soon, the man introduces Mae to the group and she becomes involved in their work...
- I won't reveal what happens in this story, but I'll mention that I loved everything about it, because the story gradually expands and becomes increasingly unsettling until it ends in a mesmerisingly apocalyptic way.
- The way the author writes about Mae and her feelings is simply outstanding, because it pulls the reader into the story. I was fascinated by how Mae felt about her connection to the group and their philosophy, because she was pulled into their world against her will, but seemed to understand them.
- This is the strongest and most compelling story in this collection. It's a prime example of beautifully written and immersive weird fiction.
The characterisation is excellent and insightful in each of the stories. The author has created characters that feel achingly real, because they have their own feelings, problems and worries. The characters struggle with various issues and they're all a bit broken in their own ways. What makes the characterisation especially interesting is that all of the protagonists are female.
One of the best things about this collection is that the author doesn't explain any of the supernatural happenings and doesn't deliver easy answers. I admire and respect this kind of storytelling, because what happens in the stories feels all the more powerful when certain things are left for the reader to figure out.
I love the author's prose, because it's elegant and descriptive. His literary writing style is compelling, because he writes in a beautiful and confident way that leaves readers wanting more. If you enjoy reading literary weird fiction, you won't be disappointed by the author's prose and writing style.
Simon Strantzas' Nothing is Everything can be wholeheartedly recommended to everybody who loves dark stories and weird fiction. If you call yourself a devoted fan of weird fiction, you can't afford to miss this brilliant and unique collection, because it contains inventive, mesmerising and unsettling stories that will linger on your mind. This collection is modern weird fiction at its utmost finest and most compelling.