The Infernal Republic, collected short storeis by Marshall Moore, 228 pages, Signal 10 Media Inc (2/14/2012)
Marshall Moore’s seventeen short stories in The Infernal Republic not only push the envelope, they destroy it. Endlessly inventive and varied, these twisted tales tend to focus on strange—and potentially warped—characters who are often in lose-lose situations that resolve (more or less) in ironic twists of fate. For readers who love outside-the-box storytelling, each normal, abnormal and paranormal gem in this book is a surprising flight of fancy into regions that are portrayed in straight-forward and hauntingly explicit detail.
The collection begins with Liesl and Joanna in “Urban Reef (or, It’s Hard to Find a Friend in the City)” enjoying wine and small talk in a Portland, Oregon restaurant while watching a potential suicide jumper on an adjacent building. If he jumps, how much of a mess will it make. Not for the squeamish, this one, nor many of the other offerings either as the book wends it devious way through incidents and conversations that we watch, rather like Interstate car wrecks, in spite of the fact that we’re really good people who are not in any way part of Moore’s world or his imagination.
The book ends with “The Infinite Monkey Theorem” in which Yaweh and Lucifer make a bet about whether or not a large number of monkeys at a large number of typewriters will or won’t ultimately produce the complete works of Shakespeare. The protagonist in this story gets to manage the operation off in a special pocket of temporary space that is described as “near Hell but not quite in it.” In spite of the space and the deities involved, there are logistical matters to attend to as well as issues of trickery and the wager’s true intent.
En route to “near Hell” via Portland, readers will encounter a building that ejects an apartment “like an enormous video-cassette,” a “well-mannered boy” named Jason who doesn’t want to go home, heroes who compete as Prime Combatants with remarkable (and not always pleasant) paranormal powers, a house that wakes up and suddenly becomes sentient, a boy with detachable body parts, a motivational speaker who’s been kidnapped by a cruelly benevolent organization that wants her to grasp the errors of her ways and then accept a punishment of hero own choosing.
Marshall Moore’s seventeen stories will take you where you’ve never been before and—in some case—where you might prefer not too have gone (had you known at the outset just how strange things were going to get). The Infernal Republic is rather like a smorgasbord of dishes that you didn’t even know could be consumed as food in polite society. You won’t be able to walk away. And when you finally learn who won the bet about the monkeys and the typewriters, you’ll be glad you kissed your normal reading habits goodbye and hung on for the ride.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism, contemporary and fantasy novels, including “Sarabande.”