Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu is a deeply engrossing, occasionally disturbing collection of 12 short stories. While they don’t build on each other, each shares a bit of strangeness that gets at some fraction of human nature.
I had forgotten the way in which short stories as a form sweep you up and then–particularly in this collection–dump you out the other end a bit breathless, not quite ready to move on to the next.
Take for example, the very first story: “Pre-Simluation Consultation XF007867” about a conversation between someone and the operator of a simulator. The user wishes to be reunited with their dead mother, a protocol that’s not allowed because it’s too addicting an experience. The story wends through their conversation as they explore what is allowed and why, why and what the user hopes to experience with their mother. It’s a great opening gambit for the collection.
Other stories are darker in their premise like a husband and wife who occasionally kill each other because they own a machine that can reprint their spouse in a matter of hours, so long as they die quickly enough. Many offer twists and turns that look at some underbellies of human nature, when exposed to Fu’s sci-fi and fantasy laden — yet simultaneously very ordinary — worlds.