Brian Evenson’s The Glassy Burning Floor of Hell shares much of its creative DNA with Rod Serling’s classic TV series The Twilight Zone. Both are collections of speculative fiction, not limited to one of the genres that banner encapsulates—horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. While their show’s meager budget limited Serling and his team of writers, Evenson’s only constraint is the limits of his imagination, and he stretches it to far-ranging places in The Glassy Burning Floor of Hell. Some tales are earthbound and familiar, while others sore deep into space.
Jet Black Humor
The further Evenson gets from our planet and the current day, the stranger his stories get. The collection opens with the story of a spaceship’s captain whose sentient leg has a murderous streak. The funniest story, “The Barrowman,” features a misunderstanding between the survivor of an alien holocaust and the literal-minded alien oppressors who only want to help him.
“The Barrowman” is an excellent example of what makes this collection outstanding. Many of the stories are deeply cynical, with Evenson frequently setting stories in the aftermath of our current environmental crises. His characters are often forced to make decisions that will either continue or condemn what remains of the human race. Evenson’s talent makes his readers consider what they would do in these bleak futures while simultaneously making them laugh.
Evenson’s humor is dark as jet fuel, but it allows him to go to these dark places. Without it, the cynicism would be overpowering. The laughs make the heavy themes palatable. It is a winning formula, which has led to Evenson earning all kinds of accolades. His last story collection, Song for the Unraveling of the World, won both a Shirley Jackson and a World Fantasy Award.
Like The Twilight Zone, The Glassy Burning Floor of Hell invests more story on the moral than the characters. The people populating this collection often feel flat. There are rarely more than two named characters in a story, with others being named after their role in their respective story—i.e., Uncle or Orderly. This seems like an intentional choice rather than a craft failure. While the characters may be hard to care about, the ideas that Evenson is working toward come across more clearly. It also makes the stories tighter, less bogged down with details and family members.
The Glassy Burning Floor of Hell is an incredible accomplishment. The stories are remarkably varied, united only by Evenson’s dark humor and cynicism. Expect to hear more about this collection as it nets Evenson more awards.
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|Pub Date: August 3, 2021||Page Count: 248pp||Age Range: 16 & Over|
|ISBN: 978-1-5668-9611-5||Publisher: Coffee House Press||List Price: $16.95|