Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Book Review: eyeballs growing all over me ...again by Tony Rauch

The experience of reading the stories in Rauch's eyeballs growing all over me ...again is a lot like watching a "lighter" episode of The Twilight Zone. That's not to say they're all fluff. The stories play with a lot of science fiction tropes. Robots, time travel, things shrinking or growing by various means, and so forth are some of the fixations throughout the book. But almost all of them make an attempt at using these tropes to examine the human condition. Throughout these stories, there is a sense of longing, alienation, and being overwhelmed by the weight of the world.

For example, in "send krupac through the portal", the titular Krupac finds himself dumped by the woman he's in love with. When he can't win her back and he can't get over her, he turns to extreme means. With the help of some friends at a local science lab, he plans to send himself into an alternate dimension where he can still be with her.
I try everything in the book, and for the most part Margo puts up with it politely, telling me that maybe in another time, another place, we were meant to be together, but she just doesn’t feel it in the here and now. Not now. She just needs time, she says. Maybe in a little while. Maybe in the future. Maybe.
A sad story that combines both a child-like sense of wonder reminiscent of early science fiction works and the feelings of longing and heartache that are unfortunately far more familiar to many people.

Rauch seems to enjoy having children as his protagonists. Some stories, like "the sandbox", read almost like whimsical bedtime stories. Though not the strongest story in the collection, this isn't a bad thing. Rauch isn't afraid to put the children through some profound pain as well, such as in "the procedure". A young boy is woken up and informed by his mother that his sister had to be rushed to the hospital. They bring her home, and the boy discovers that she's had her head replaced with a goat's head. This seems to have robbed the girl of most of her humanity.
He leans in and tries to see into one of those little black garble eyes, but there is nothing behind them. There is nothing there at all. He only finds his dim little reflection floating as if lost in there, as if some tiny little someone is trapped way deep down inside there, trapped and struggling to get out.
Like many other Bizarro writers, Rauch is not without a sense of humor. "giant chicken menacing me from above" is exactly what the title says it is. A man finds himself being stalked by a giant chicken, never finding out where and when it came from or what it wants with him. He soon comes to believe the chicken is a manifestation of all his fears and anxiety. 
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, about all the missed opportunities adding up, about being afraid to act, unable or unwilling to move forward, about hiding in my own life, about hiding it all away, about creeping low in the shadows. I’ve been thinking of stepping from the safety of the shadows of doubt and indecision, into the enlightenment of action and response. But instead of drawing me out of the shadows, all that thought and consternation only seems to bring a giant chicken, fierce and mean.
Rauch also has a knack for coming up with some very short but excellent dream-like vignettes such as "the run", where a man is woken up by tiny stampeding elephants in his house. Another example is "welcome home", a second-person story wherein "you" meet some interesting people while out on a camping trip.

There are, however, some stories which felt pointless and meandering. "activate the mathias (when in doubt)" is a story about a man with device that can slow down time. It's so heavy on technobabble explanations that it drowned out the point the story was trying make. While most of the stories benefit from their brevity, "little giants (behind the barn)" just seems to end far too soon. A boy meets a very tiny man who makes him all sorts of promises. Then it just ends  It reads like the first chapter of an unfinished novel.

eyeballs growing all over me ...again is overall a pretty good collection of short stories and flash fiction. It would be one I would especially recommend to science fiction fans or to people who want to read a lighter kind of Bizarro fiction.

Buy eyeballs growing all over me ...again here.

1 comment:

Ann Sterzinger said...

I love that early sci-fi sense of wonder... sounds like I need this.