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Corona(tion) Year, Vol. 1
In Corona(tion) Year, Vol. 1: Short Stories, the unfolding of the pandemic as it happened is explored through narrative fiction that both stylizes and accurately depicts a world gone stark-raving mad, having absolutely no idea how to function or treat one another when necessary restrictions vastly reined in everyday selfishness and frivolity.
Rivieccio’s intriguing topical short-story collection is, in parts, an exaggerated reimagination of the Covid-19 pandemic. The sixty miniaturized accounts here are biting satires steeped in surrealism, reflecting above all else the moral deterioration of society, especially as it was exposed by the events of 2020. In “The Pop Star Who Said The Show Must Go On,” Mariposa is an entitled performer who insists on still holding her concert in the middle of the pandemic, while Meredith from “The New Strain” disregards all lockdown rules to vacation among “the pale, portly British husks” of England’s Dorset coast. Rivieccio deftly employs a dominant theme of societal hypocrisy to expose the uneven scales of capitalism, establishing an atmosphere of unmistakable despair.

Predominantly, Rivieccio’s stories adhere to a rigid narrational framework. They open to eerie settings, vaguely reminiscent of Murakami’s underworld, and slyly weave the protagonists into the fold. The characters inhabiting this collapsing world range from the peculiar to the quotidian: animals plot to assert their dominance in the canals of Venice; an “anti-abode gang” of homeless rally against the “civvies” who live inside; and a millennial reluctantly moves back with his parents when jobs dry up. But perceived through the lens of a sarcastic and cynical narrator, they rarely prove complex enough to stir reader empathy. The writing style is both refined and accessible, with crisp and witty prose, but the plot lines become repetitive, seemingly by design. A handful of graphic sequences will not be every reader’s cup of tea, true to the ethos of an author not afraid to shock or alienate.

Rivieccio tackles intense subject matters like racism while addressing the challenges faced by contemporary readers, such as dating during the pandemic and surviving Zoom calls. Readers accepting of allegories, dark humor, and those particularly interested in human-interest pieces with a dash of popular culture will enjoy this of-the-moment, darkly comic collection.

Takeaway: Rivieccio’s daring Covid-era short stories are as strange as their era.

Great for fans of: Doris Lessing’s London Observed: Stories and Sketches, Curtis Sittenfeld’s You Think It, I’ll Say It.

Production grades
Cover: C-
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: B+