Unthology No. 3 by Various Authors

This collection showcases eighteen short stories by eighteen—both new and established—authors. Unlike most anthologies, the stories inside are not “a hit and a miss.” After finishing one engaging and well-written story, the reader begins the next, and is enthralled just the same. A few of the stories, of course, are not as memorable, intriguing, insightful, or effective as the few that stand out, but they all have their merits.

In “The Theory of Circles” by Debz Hobbs-Wyatt, the narrator relays the FaceBook and Twitter updates and blog posts of an acquaintance, who documents his observations of his neighbors backwards through time, beginning when he finally decides to “unplug” from the internet and ending when one of the two neighbors first moved in. This story explores the capacity that friendship, and even observation of strangers, can have in helping an individual self-actualize and come out of their shell. It is cleverly written and a fascinating read.

“Trans-Neptune,” the collection’s longest story, by Ashley Stokes, follows a woman over the course of one day as she struggles in dealing with the fame of her scientist husband, who discovered a new planet in the solar system and whom she discovered has been having an affair. Determined to get revenge on him by having an affair herself, she learns from the obnoxious hotel staff the value of dignity and the influence of lust. The characters shine in this novelette, for their gruesome honesty and especially for their flaws.

Gordon Collins’s “Even Meat Fill” and Ian Chung’s “The Triptych Papers” are the collection’s highlights, exploring the psychological consequences of human nature in two very different but magnificently effective ways. Both, but perhaps especially “The Triptych Papers,” stick with the reader long after they’re over, leaving behind a labyrinth of psychological contemplation.

Overall this is an outstanding collection of short stories, perfect for the literary-minded reader seeking something with depth and intelligence in the face of our bombardment with a slush pile of lowbrow, contemporary books.