In A MAGNET TO A FLAME, Shawn Patrick Cooke toys with the delicate line between choice and possibility through 28 short stories and 3 poems. From a child obliviously experiencing her parents’ escape from a dystopic society to a convict seeking another dimension of reality, each story is a glimpse into characters on the edge of a making a decision—or having one made for them—that may prune away possibilities or increase them tenfold.
Although the stories vary widely in genre, style, and theme, nearly all hint at otherworldly elements. In “Exit Interview,” an employee describes the day a mysterious fifth floor appeared out of nowhere, prompting him to explore its mysteries (which include delicious brownies and omniscience), while “The Immortality of Conrad Cavella” shows a man who may or may not be extending his life by collecting extra seconds left on microwaves. Through a combination of unreliable narrators and somewhat macabre humor, Cooke often flirts with the possibility of the ethereal without fully committing to it.
Cooke best showcases his penchant for embracing strange scenarios in a series of reviews for the band, They Might Be Giants, written as monologues delivered by a dentist—who is dating your ex—as he examines your teeth, a recently divorced dad as he updates his online dating profile, and your blind date as he sinks in quicksand. The author is also unafraid to use clichéd setups to subvert expectations, as he does when a woman in the midst of a zombie apocalypse chooses to throw a wild party instead of planning for survival in, “End of the World Potluck and Wine Tasting.”
While many of the stories are intriguing, they often serve as brief snapshots within larger worlds or stories instead of fully realized tales. At times, Cooke sacrifices reader comprehension for mystery, though that is not necessarily a flaw. Overall, readers who enjoy being dropped into the middle of a story without knowing what is going on will appreciate A MAGNET TO A FLAME far more than those who prefer fleshed out worlds or characters.
Bizarre and strange scenarios illuminate the power of possibility in A MAGNET TO A FLAME, a set of mystical and intriguing short stories that explore the impact of human choice, while subverting expectations.
~Cameron Gillespie for IndieReader
*Readers should note that the Kindle version skips sentences at the bottom of random pages due to a formatting error.