The End of Everything
The End of The End of Everything is the latest collection of short stories written by fiction author Dale Bailey.
Dale Bailey has been writing speculative, weird, and horror fiction stories since about 1993, and it’d be a formidable challenge to find anything under his name that’s not well penned. At the same time, it seems uninspired to say story after story of his is great, great, and great again. Yet this is the position a reader may find themselves upon closing the final page of this book, as every tale in this collection is outstanding, and only in varying degrees of excellence do they surmount each other.
The immediate caveat, of course, is to say that this book is not for everybody. It is not filled with twists or shocks, but rather a slow, winding dread. Dale’s writing is smart, and it is literary in a dark genre not known for plumbing the depths of social issues nor of the greater human condition, especially while marrying a speculative slant. His stories can be quiet, abstract, even at times a bit pretentious, yet each is beautiful and meaningful—like looking upon a strange painting that provokes simultaneous feelings of aversion and enlightenment.
This collection contains the following nine stories:
“The End of the World as We Know It”—The musings of an apocalyptic survivor as he sits on his porch, contemplating love, self, and all the ways the world can end.
“The Bluehole”—A melancholy coming-of-age story about a boy discovering his sexuality and the legends of a lake with no bottom, set in the caustic town of a 1980s mining company.
“The Creature Recants”—A magnificent insight into the Creature from the Black Lagoon, in which the amphibious beast waxes poetic upon his tribulations in 1950s Hollywood.
“Mating Habits of the Late Cretaceous”—A science fiction time travel story filled with dinosaurs, exploration, and marital healing. One of the best in the book, if at least for the author’s exquisite descriptive prose of the cretaceous era and all its glorious inhabitants.
“A Rumor of Angels”—An achingly sad tale about a Depression-era boy who leaves his desolate Texas farm and hitches a ride with strangers, searching out a better life on the west coast, and perhaps something more.
“Eating at the End-of-the-World Café”—The despairing mother of a sick child must make ends meet any way she can, even if that means waitressing at a restaurant next to The Pit, a hellish analogy for . . . Hell. She sees only gloom, but hopes for something better to come along.
“Lightning Jack’s Last Ride”—An imagined near-future in which the nation is at war with itself, and oil is the most valuable commodity; told as a flashback by an aged gang member-narrator who participated in hijacking the oil tankers.
“Troop 9″—One of the darker stories in this collection, a small town girl scout troop runs away and becomes feral.
“The End of the End of Everything”—In a world of ruin, bohemian survivors pursue the lusts of sex, drugs, and suicide parties. An oddly hopeful contemplation, as sickening as enthralling.
This collection is enthusiastically recommended to fans of dark fiction that crosses both genre and literary. Dale Bailey’s writing may be found similar to other contemporaries such as Laird Baron, Steve Rasnic Tem, Tanith Lee, and Lisa Tuttle.