I've never much cared for the short story as a literary form. Just as you're starting to like the characters or get into the plot, it's all over. But Alex Andronov's new volume may force me to reconsider.
The book is a smorgasbord of genres and styles, just as enjoyable to dip into at random as to read cover to cover. There is something for everyone - fantasy, sci-fi, mystery and Gothic horror, as well as more earthbound but no less striking vignettes of fragile relationships in domestic settings.
The collection hosts a cavalcade of unforgettably outlandish characters, from conniving elderly pirates and amorous nanobots to asthmatic cockney beagles, but there's more going on than just absurdist silliness (although there is plenty of that). 'Moon miners' is a stunning environmental fable about a moon made of cheese being slowly devoured by its population of indolent mice. It's the sort of thing I'd want my children to read (but be warned - there are some adult themes in this book).
There's so much to admire in these stories - they show intelligence, Woody Allen-esque wit and a bubbling imagination, but also a great love of language. 'Cross words to say' is a tale of romance between two cryptic crossword fans, while 'Soup' will change the way you look at the alphabet forever.
The genuine highlights for me, though, were the less flamboyant moments. The title story, with its depiction of an old man recalling childhood traumas at the sight of a mutilated book, is painfully raw and moving. And 'Left out in the cold', which depicts a teacher freezing outside a door he mistakenly believes to be locked, is so rich in potential meanings that it's haunted me for weeks.
You'll finish this book thinking of just two words: more please.