BooksReviews

STEALING GOD Delivers Some Soulful Stories

Stealing God and Other Stories 
Written by Bruce McAllister
Published by Aeon Press
June 17, 2022
Paperback, 262 pages

Bruce McAllister has quite a history: the son of a Navy officer and an anthropologist, he grew up in places all over the world. That life experience, combined with his degrees in English and writing, led him to the conclusion that he’s not cut out to write full-length novels.

Which actually fits pretty well, as McAllister long ago found his niche in short stories and poetry.

Stealing God and Other Stories is an interesting collection of short tales. They’re short, but not small. Each story is tightly written and deeply emotional. And knowing McAllister’s background, it’s not too difficult to see those influences in his work.

One thing that strikes me with this collection is the diversity of type. There’s voodoo and vampires, time travel and stamp collecting. And throughout the whole thing, I got the sense that I was reading a set of stories that would have felt right at home on Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. These are stories that really center on the characters, not plot contrivances. Relationships live at the heart of every story. And I like that not every relationship is a good one. There are some toxic ones thrown in for good measure, but the progression of ideas from one scene to the next make it inevitable that these personalities would find themselves on the same page.

Some stories resonated with me a little more strongly than others. “Ink,” for example, was both chilling and emotionally satisfying, and its twist at the end was what really put this into Twilight Zone territory for me. “La Signora” is a haunting tale that weaves the slightly disobedient attitude of an adolescent with the consequences of choices made with immature haste. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way, and sometimes there are no happy endings.

The anthology isn’t full of downers, mind you. But like Serling’s morality plays, McAllister’s stories will leave you thinking. And that’s really what the whole thing is all about, isn’t it? Science fiction, fantasy, and horror should hold up a mirror and give us a look inside ourselves. Stealing God and Other Stories does this quite well. Don’t let the fact that these are short stories put you off. Sometimes you don’t need a full-length novel to get the point across. We need good short stories. It’s not quite a dying art, but it’s certainly getting to be a lonely one.

Pick this one up after you watch my interview with McAllister on Live From The Bunker.

 

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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