A Magnet to a Flame
Adult; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Market)
A video store that transports you through time. Immortality from a microwave oven. A trip across the Atlantic, from the comfort of an armchair. From the mind of Shawn Patrick Cooke comes a collection of stories that brush gently against reality.
Featuring both previously published works and never-before-seen stories, this debut collection ranges from America's industrial past to a potluck at the end of the world; from windswept moors to suburban homes, from fairy tales to harsh reality—while shining a light on the core of what it means to be human.
Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 8 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 8 out of 10
Overall: 8.25 out of 10
Plot: Cooke’s short stories effectively stand alone as concept-driven vignettes, while also harmonizing thematically as a collective.
Prose/Style:Cooke offers an observant voice that is situated between cynical and earnest tones, creating an engaging narrative tension.
Originality: The author infuses each story with fresh elements and perspective, as well as voice-driven energy.
Characterization:While working in short form, Cooke impressively leaves readers with clear and lingering impressions of his characters.
Blurb:Blending ingredients of the preternatural and absurd with centering emotional resonance, Cooke brings crackling energy, poise, and subtlety to his collection of stories.
Date Submitted: April 02, 2019
Cooke has titled his debut after a line from a particularly obscure They Might Be Giants song, and it serves as a content warning of sorts: his stories serve up the weird for weirdness’s sake, often with a dash of quirky charm. In these 31 works, written over 22 years, Cooke returns repeatedly to the preservation of bygone days, the nature of witches, and consciousness of scripts and instructions. The opener, “Video,” is a detailed manual of how to approach a strip mall video store and enter a stranger’s life during some year in the past. “Exit Interview” examines that most mundane setting, an office building, where the narrator finds “all of my stuff, starting with my first car”—as though one room could contain the past. Then, in “Not Even for an Hour,” a war widow has a job interview with a peer from 1,000 years in the past. It’s fun to connect such thematic dots. Like glitter, the stories catch the eye without profound substance. Cooke’s peculiar, sideways collection is both easy to pick up and easy to put down. (BookLife)