This is an interesting and challenging set of short stories. Every story is unique and unusual. I recommend it.
Normally, I start with a summary of the opening chapters of the book, but as this is all short stories, I shall provide a quick summary of each including my overall opinion:
• “A Glimpse of the Numinous”. A man discovers his brother’s wife is being visited by an incubus but finds there is much more going on. This is a good story but the ending is a bit weak.
• “351073”. If this number is entered on a calculator and turned upside down, it spells Eloise. Based on this fact and whilst grieving over the loss of his wife, a minister of religion names his daughter Eloise but as she grows older she becomes obsessed with numbers and numerology until it threatens her life. This is another good story with an interesting conclusion.
• “The Curious”. A strange ethereal being flows through and merges with the natural elements of the earth but when it attempts to merge with humans it finds pain and suffering. To understand humans fully it goes through the painful merge. The story presents a non-human point of view but it is not as deep as you would expect.
• “Phobophobia”. A man discovers fearful creatures at the edge of his vision when he is blinded by a bright light. He decides to face these fears in order to transcend them. This story presents an interesting examination of terror and the human reaction to it.
• “Withdrawal”. A woman meets and marries a man who is obsessed by a childhood event where his best friend disappeared after walking around a lamppost. She accidentally walks around the same lamppost and disappears from his sight. The strength of this story is its investigation into the nature and power of a viewpoint.
• “Gull Power”. A man befriends a gull which becomes his permanent companion, until a woman appears to threaten their relationship. This one is a bit of silly fun to provide a lighter alternative.
• “More Sinned Against”. A man finds the girl of his dreams but she is inculcated into a religious sect and so he loses her. This story is frighteningly believable.
• “Delirium Tremens”. A woman looks on with love as her brother goes through a psychotic episode. It’s a difficult premise that is presented well.
• “Heartwood”. A woman meets an ethereal, wood-based creature. It is a very short sketch of their meeting.
• “Bred in the Bone”. A story of a boy growing up in a very dysfunctional and brutal family. This story is a hard read as it is disturbing and graphic, bordering on horror in places.
• “Foresight”. A victim befriends the bully who attacked him. The victim manipulates the bully into attacking him again but this time he is prepared. It is enjoyable, especially if you’ve ever been bullied.
• “Dionysus”. A singer who calls himself Dionysus provides concerts where women dance wildly. A good modern day telling of an ancient ceremony.
As a whole, I found this book entertaining. It is quite short and so didn’t take long to read. My only criticism is that many of the stories are not really about the numinous. They are simply interesting stories of people’s lives. They are well told and entertaining but I was hoping for more.
At this point in my review I usually give the Book Awards to send up its best and worst features, but since this is such a wide ranging set of stories it does not seem appropriate.
To summarize, this book is entertaining and a good read but it does not really live up to the overall title.
Review by Wayne J. Harris