Heuler often interweaves the strange with current affairs, good wins over bad, occasionally makes feminist statements as in the story ‘Alien Corn’:
‘There was a woman in uniform, but she stood last in line.’
Yet, in the first story, of Nola, intent on building bridges her whole life, there is a throw away sentence where Nola was raped, and the rape kit had been lost, and no more was made of this what should have been, a major incident in her life.
There are a couple of amusing writer related stories. ‘Give me Strength’ is about the writer’s scourge:
‘…some of the really bad ones lose their endings. They just stop somewhere in a book or story and that’s it.’
Or in a clever and amusing story ‘Figaro, Figueroa’, which is a conversation between the writer and her character, Jack, and her jealousy as he falls for the heroine, the ending is worth waiting for.
A couple of the more scientific stories toward the end of the collection I found a bit boring, and I was also disappointed that the last story ‘A Thing of Beauty and Light’ was the last story as it was one of the weakest in the collection and left me wanting more of her better stories of which there were many. For example, you could not fail to be drawn into the pathos of the protagonist in ‘Searching for Penny’ coming to terms with her mother’s stroke and approaching dementia, or the twin that lived inside her twin in ‘The Reordering of Tonia Vivian’ or become engrossed in the mirror stories, one in which people in the mirror foretold gruesome futures, the other with a door into an unknown world.
Heuler could give us a Masterclass in beginnings, they immediately draw you in, but as in the story of the writer mentioned above, who stops too soon in a story, Heuler cannot be accused of that, which to my mind is a heinous crime. I may be old-fashioned, but I like satisfying endings, and Heuler certainly delivers on those.
The Clockworm and Other Strange Stories by Karen Heuler is published by Tartuus Press. The hardback edition of 252 pages has been printed in a limited edition of 300 copies, price £35. The collection is also available as an Ebook, price £4.99. Click here for Tartarus Press