The new short story collection from Kevin Brockmeier, The View from the Seventh Layer, is difficult to pigeon-hole for these stories defy ready classification. Not strictly genre fiction nor completely science fiction, the author describes the collection thus: “The View from the Seventh Layer is not strictly or even primarily a work of science fiction; in a collection of thirteen stories, I would say that four of them fall squarely within the science fiction and fantasy tradition, four of them squarely outside, and the other five straddle the border, some leaning most of their weight toward realism, some toward fantasy or science fiction.”
It’s difficult to fully explore a collection of stories in a limited review; therefore, I’ve chosen to focus on two that stood out on initial reading. “A Fable Ending in the Sound of a Thousand Parakeets” is barely eight pages long and yet it hits with enough force to bring the reader to a full stop. The first story in The View from the Seventh Layer shares a mute man’s experience of living in a town where everyone communicates through song. He is “…the only person who was unable to lend his voice to the great chorus of song that filled the air.” Is this deceptively simple tale of the ultimate outsider placed here to invite readers to slow down and savour Brockmeier’s tales or, by beginning his collection with a story of a man who can’t speak, is he raising flags to remind readers they need to look beyond the basic meaning of his words?
“The Air is Full of Little Holes” explores the life of a woman pictured in a “magazine with a yellow border around the cover.” The gentle story of a family is at odds with the ugliness which appears when western expectations meet a traditional ways of life.
The thirteen stories in The View from the Seventh Layer reflect a writer comfortable in his skin, unafraid to take risks with his characters and plots. These aren’t simple stories yet readers who invest their time will be richly rewarded.
Kevin Brockmeier’s possible playlist to accompany The View from the Seventh Layer (from Large Hearted Boy) can be found here.
Read the review at Armchair Interviews.
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Publication Date: March 18, 2008
tags: books book reviews short stories Kevin Brockmeier