Time Code: The Best Collection of 52 Stories You Should Be Reading This Year, by Charles Eugene Anderson (0:36)

Today we see that if you’re going to put not one, but two claims of excellence in your subtitle, you’d really better deliver the goods.

What I gleaned about the stories: These are the best stories. Totally bigly good. People. Real people. They love them.

Find this book on Amazon.

Note: This is a short story collection, so the rules are slightly different from standard Immerse or Die: instead of reading on every time I lose immersion, I stop reading that story and move on to the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.

Note 2: Every time I see copy that says “this is the best book” or “everyone should read this book,” I am reminded of my Classics master teaching us about hubris. However, I remain optimistic that sooner or later, the claim will prove true.

WTF #1: Blatant Lies

Analysis: The table of contents lists the first item as Introduction, so I was slightly startled when I reached the beginning of the first story without encountering an introduction. So, I went back to the table of contents and clicked the link; I was taken to a page listing the title, author, author’s website, and how to join the author’s mailing list.

I don’t mind collections that don’t have an introduction; in fact, if the rationale for the collection is no more complex than the author had enough stories they thought were great, I might even appreciate not having to get past an introduction that doesn’t add anything to the experience.

However, telling me there’s an introduction then not having one made me feel like I’d been lied to. This wasn’t an auspicious start for “the best collection” that I “should be reading” For a moment, I wanted to ditch the book completely; however, I decided it was likely a mistake rather than a deliberate attempt to mislead and moved on.

WTF #2: Lack of zing in prose and plot

Analysis: The first story opens with paragraphs mostly filled with sentences in the form of Noun verbed… He verbed… It was… There was enough variety among the specific verbs and nouns used that I didn’t immediately become bored; however, when the end of the second paragraph revealed that the protagonist was having difficulty writing a story, my immediate thought was that I didn’t really care. Perhaps had the prose been fluid, I might have read on to see how the author portrayed the nuances of this issue; perhaps had the hook been something intriguing, I might have let the storm-of-declaratives opening slide; but with neither evidence of beautiful language nor sign of a riveting story, I was disengaged enough to realise how disengaged I was.

So, I moved on.

WTF #3: Tense conflict (the bad technical kind, not the good narrative one)

Analysis: The second story opens with: Heat shields expand as the capsule plunged downward. The sentence begins in present tense, which created a powerful sense of being there and everything being at risk; rather than the sliver of distance that comes from someone having had to survive to report a past event, this was happening now. So hitting the past tense (plunged) in the same sentence both tripped up my grammar cop and stole away my feeling of intimacy.

With both technical and prosaic issues putting a lie to this being the best collection of the year, I pulled the plug.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Download one of these free short stories, in the format of your choice, and decide for yourself.

Amber Fang 3: Revenge, by Arthur Slade (0:53)
Burnt Worlds, by S.J. Madill (40:00)

About the author

Dave Higgins has worked in law and IT for both public and private sector organisations. When not pursuing these hobbies, he writes poetry and speculative fiction. He was born in Wiltshire, England. Raised by a librarian, he started reading shortly after birth and has not stopped since. He currently lives in Bristol with his wife, Nicola, his cats, Jasper and Una, and many shelves of books.