Glenn Rolfe is one of my favourite up and coming writers (and he seems like a pretty decent guy to boot), so I picked up Slush, his recent short collection of 12 tales, with no small amount of expectation. Regardless of this, like most collections of short fiction, I found a mixed group of tales, most of which I liked and some of which I thought were excellent, while others missed the mark for me.
To commence with those mark-missers, THE CURSE was a brave attempt at a supernaturally-fused revenge tale which tried to do too much in its run time and hence fell apart by story's end; THE DELICIOUS DEATH OF PARKER STEPHENS featured a largely irrelevant opening that failed to flesh out the titular character so I did not care about his demise, and the monsters were too random and seemed to exist "just because"; while poetry has never been my thing, so CANDLE MAGIC felt oddly out of context amongst the rest of the prose based works.
Which leaves nine tales that I found to be decent (SKULL OF SNAKES) to good (SOMETHING LOST) to downright excellent. To highlight those that fall into the latter category for me, the three tales featuring Rolfe writing from the POV of a deranged individual who is about to or already has committed murder are all top notch. SWEET 16 is the first of these and very effectively conveys the dark side of obsession, JACKIE BOY evokes some stomach-churning scenes on its way to giving life to a budding serial-killer, and FLAWS is one that will leave the reader needing to take a shower to get the sense of grimy creepiness off them. HENRY is another excellent tale that elicits shudders of repulsion in a relatively sparse number of pages, and though HALLOWEEN WORM ended a little abruptly, I enjoyed Rolfe's varied take on a bully forcing his target into helping him deal with a bigger fish.
A 75% hit rate isn't a bad return at all for someone who has always enjoyed longer works of fiction. So if dark, unsettling and occasionally nausea-inducing is your thing, grab a hold of Rolfe's Slush and prepare yourself for a satisfying night in.
3.5 Hungry, Hungry Worms for Slush.