After I killed my wife, I had twenty hours before her new body finished printing downstairs.
Kim Fu, rising literary star (For Today I am a Boy, The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore), has written a collection of short stories that mostly fall into SF/fantasy/horror genres, reminiscent of The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror.
Title: Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century
Author: Kim Fu
First published February 2022 (some stories were published previously)
“Pre-Simulation Consultation XF007867” — a woman encounters difficulties with a virtual reality operator.
“Liddy, First to Fly”– a girl’s development comes with some unexpected, magical complications.
“Time Cubes”– a man sells cubes that appear to control time.
“#Climbing Nation”– this non-fantasy story concerns the death of a climber, and a plot that surrounds his surviving companion.
“Sandman”– a woman becomes the Sandman’s lover.
“Twenty Hours”– a couple makes a deranged game of the ability to back up and restore people with advanced tech.
“The Doll”– some children encounter a cursed toy.
“In This Fantasy”– a woman imagines other lives.
“Scissors” — two women’s relationship, viewed through their performance at a fetish event.
“June Bugs” — a woman rents a Kafkaesque house.
“Bridezila” — doubts about marriage occur in a world where a monster roams the seas.
“Do You Remember Candy” — one change to humanity has far-reaching effects.
“Pre-Simulation Consultation XF007867” consists of a conversation or transcript. That should have failed to be engaging SF for a number of reasons. Instead, it’s one of the strongest in the collection, which reflects on present and future technology.
Fu writes brilliantly, with an awareness of the power of details, aptly chosen and used. The collection’s best stories (mostly, as I experienced it, the first half) are brilliantly-penned and memorable. Fantasy and SF elements, often handled in original ways, can reveal much about humanity.
The quality of the style does not lag in the second half, but some of the later stories present an interesting idea, often connected to a female character who is experiencing relationship issues for which the idea becomes a kind of metaphor, and then… the story ends.
Imagery: 6/6 Fu’s Regardless of the particular story’s genre, Fu’s characters live in a world disquietingly off the one we think we know.
Story: 4/6 Storylines vary from strong to sparse.
Characterization: 5/6 Fu writes credible characters.
Emotional Response: 4/6 If I had only read the first half of this book, I would have called it my favorite book of the season. I should say, however, that something like that is true of most short fiction collections.
Overall Score: 5/6 You may not like every story. You probably won’t like every story. You will, however, find a few that will stay with you.
In total, Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century receives 34/42