Short story collections are generally hit-or-miss. When you get right down to it, they're only as good as their strongest entry, or as bad as their weakest. Oddly, with one or two notable exceptions, Oddities & Entities is one collection that was largely even all the way through - not exactly stellar, but still solid enough to keep me reading.
The stories themselves were somewhat oddly structured, coming cross as more through and fully developed than most. What Roland Allnach offers us here is a series of mini novels, each with a detailed introduction and resolution to bookend them. When reading short stories I tend to prefer a little more immediacy, a little less effort wrapping things up, but the approach here works. It's unusual, and requires a bit of patience on the part of the reader, but there's something to be said for consistency of style and execution.
In terms of content, there's a little dark humour here to balance out the creepiness, a healthy dose of psychology to balance out the supernatural, and some rather inventive gore to balance out the human sentiment. The characters are deep, and particularly well-developed for a short story, owing to the amount of backstory worked into each. It's also a very literate collection, with some high profile language and exceptionally strong turns of phrase.
"Shift/Change" was a favourite of mine, a darkly inventive story that's full of very human horrors. "Me Other Me" had a bit of a Stephen King feel to it, both in terms of tone and concept. "Elmer Phelps" was another favourite, taking a well-known horror trope, turning it on its head, and surprising me with something altogether new. On the surface, "Appendage" seemed like it should have been a winner, reminding me in many ways of an early Dean Koontz tale, but it lost me somewhere along the way. I'd have to give that one a second read, just to see where we parted ways, and to see if I can find my way back into the heart of it.
Despite the pacing, this is a still a strong collection with enough imagination and style to carry even the most jaded reader through to the end.Originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins