This New & Poisonous Air by Adam McOmber is my first completed RIP book. McOmber’s book consists of short stories that give chills, thrills and makes you go hmmm. The macabre, the supernatural, the psychologically creepy, and just plain weird can be used to describe pretty much every story in the book.
“The Automatic Garden” is a tale of a garden of mechanical animals and people and plants to amaze and delight. The creator is so reclusive no one knows if he is still alive or not. But this is also a love story between Francini, the maker of the garden, and the dancer Cornazzano. Cornazzano is lured into the garden where he is confronted by an eerily life-like automaton of himself. His reaction is, well, how would you feel confronted with a likeness of yourself that can move more nimbly and will never grow old?
There is a story about the origins of Madame Tussaud and her famous wax figures. Another of the plague. One of a British woman who is mapping the locations of small, old and often forgotten graveyards around the London area. You get the idea of the variety here.
There were two stories that get my vote for favorites. One, “Fall, Orpheum” gave me chills. It takes place in a small town where every now and then someone disappears. One day David and his older sister Kitty decide to go to the movie at the Orpheum. During the movie a small door opens up in the dark beneath the screen and Kitty gets up from her seat and walks through it, never to be seen again. In the search for his sister it becomes clear to David that the Orpheum is the source of all the other disappearances in the town as well. The end of the story takes a decidedly Shirley Jackson kind of turn, giving me a bit of a chill and an uncomfortable feeling of being implicated in the story.
The other story I liked a lot was “A Memory of His Rising.” This one is about two childhood friends Amon and Roddy. Roddy narrates the story. The boys’ fathers are rival psychiatrists, each with differing theories, each sure the other is very wrong. But the boys are best friends. One day when the boys are laying in the grass on a hilltop Amon stands up, takes a step, and discovers he is no longer standing on the ground but above it. The boys try various things to try to get Amon to float again but are unsuccessful. Then one night Roddy is woken up by a tap at his second floor bedroom window. When he opens it, there is Amon, floating outside it. Amon pulls Roddy out the window to stand on his feet to share the floating. After that nearly every night Amon shows up and takes Roddy out flying. There is a definite sexual undercurrent mixed with the delight and fear of flying and discovery. Amon’s flying allows him to begin to see things about the world others can’t. Roddy begins to grow unhappy because Amon can see things and go places he can’t. One evening Roddy and Amon quarrel and, let’s just say the story has a tragic ending. In fact, none of the stories in this book can be said to have happy endings. But then I did read this book for its RIP-perfect qualities.
The stories are so varied that I didn’t feel like I was reading the same story over and over or reading the same character in a new story but just with a different name and setting, if that makes sense. The stories aren’t brainy or deep or full of insight, they are simply good stories of the pure pleasure sort. Read and enjoy.