Author: Mark R. Brand
Publisher: CCLaP Publishing
Where I Received the Title: from Publisher
Let me start off my review by saying I was previously unfamiliar with Mark R. Brand or the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP). Then, strangely enough, when I was with my family one night in Chicago of all places, I received an email from the publisher asking if I would be interested in reviewing a copy of Long Live Us. Since the universe was saying something, who was I to resist?
I read a fair amount of short fiction. I’d estimate it makes up about twenty percent of my reading, but it is rare that I will pick up a single-author collection without having read the author previously. My previous attempt did not bode well.
I am pleased to say that Mark R. Brand is a competent author. I wouldn’t call his stories as much of the SF variety as they are of the weird variety. Authors like Roald Dahl, Joe Hill, and Chuck Palahniuk come to mind. Now that’s a great crowd to be in when it comes to short stories. The tales within are largely dystopian — housebound families remain quarantined amidst a meningitis epidemic and desperate teenagers exchange favors for morsels of food. There are a few hits and others I didn’t care for as much, but the story worthy of most attention is the first story, “Red Rocket.” In this story, a schoolboy named Darryl waits in line to see the principal after getting into a fight with a classmate. He believes his father is on an important lunar mission, but gossip spreading among the kids and their parents says otherwise. Through a series of flashbacks and conversations, Darryl sets on a path to discover who his father really is. While the protagonist is left with a sense of certainty, the reader is cleverly less-convinced of his father’s true lot in life. In that respect, I found the story to be quite satisfying.
As for the entire collection, it contains the following stories:
- Red Rocket
- Nose Goblins
- The Tree Over Garret’s Hole
- The Insurgent
- She Was Never Free to Begin With
- Habitat for Humanity
- The Woman in the Pit
Brand’s selected stories are diverse and are good for readers who are looking for something peculiar, but not overly-filled with fantastic elements. It’s a short collection and I managed to read a bulk of the stories in one sitting. If you’re looking to try something new and different or want to support a local Chicago author, give this collection a shot.