Book Review – Darkness With a Chance of Whimsey

TITLE Darkness With a Chance of Whimsey: Ten Years, Ten Stories
AUTHOR RJ Sullivan
FORMAT Paperback

Darkness with a Chance of Whimsey is a collection of ten pieces of fiction mostly already published in various places. As a collection, there isn’t much that ties this together. I mean, you can argue that he pretty much writes in the same genres, but nothing beyond that. Not saying it’s good or bad, but just saying it’s a thing.
Also, each story has an explanation from the author in front of them. I thought that it would annoy me, but I kinda liked it after all, especially since a lot of the notes talked about when and why he wrote the story. And they didn’t really add anything to the understanding of the story, which was nice; if you have to explain your story, you’re doing it wrong.

So about the stories. I’ll say a little, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you… :

The Assurance Salesman – A group of people on a train meet a mysterious stranger with an even more mysterious blue rose.
According to the note, this was his first published story and I can tell. I think that the premise was interesting, but I think that it had some execution issues. I’d like to see it more refined and as part of a longer piece. Solidly 3/5

Fade – College students Spencer and Anna go to her parents house and get caught up in what her dad does for a living.
First of all, Anna is your typical blonde idiot character, and I hated her from just about the first sentence. The stuff with her dad was cool, though, and I thought that this story really had potential. Still, I feel like the execution didn’t quite make it, so I’ll give this one a 4/5.

Able-Bodied – This one was actually interesting. There was a detective who felt like he was being held back by a whiz-kid detective who showed up, gave an answer, disappeared and that was it. It was a really cool setup, and there was a bit of a turn in the story that wasn’t anywhere my head was going at the time. I thought that it ended a little too abruptly, though, and with an info dump to explain it to another character in the story that made it much too long. 3/5.

I Remember Clearly – This was the author’s first piece of flash, and again, I thought it showed. There’s a really interesting premise here. But the author sort of shoved a couple vignettes together and called them a story. It needed a little something else to make it rounded, and I just didn’t see that something. 2/5.

Do Better – More flash. This one has a couple (young adults, maybe?) locked in an old church after a night of… well, you know.
I think the paragraphs need a little work – almost every one of them flipped points of view – but there was a really cool idea here. I really like this one, and if it weren’t for the paragraph breaks, I’d have given it top marks. 4/5.

Grammetiquette 2030 – The story centers around a piece of tech called the Grammetiquette 2030. As it is flash, I’d pretty much ruin the story if I told you what it did. For the story, the author basically showed us the character’s input and the machine’s output.
Um. Okay? I actually wrote in my notes “What is the point of this?” Again, we have another moment of something that had potential without follow through. I like what was done here, but I wanted this to be the catalyst of something bigger and not the entire thing, you know? Maybe flash just isn’t the author’s thing most of the time? 2/5

Inner Strength & Backstage Pass – Okay, I’m rating these two together because they’re both companion stories to his novel series.
Inner Strength is about a little girl kidnapped by a demon. It’s okay, but I feel like the transitions are a little bumpy and the ending was kind of expected.
Backstage Pass is about a superfan and his favorite singer. … The singer was every stupid cliche you’d expect to hear in a country singer, except I’m pretty sure she wasn’t a country singer. It was just annoying. It was a much better written story, though, so at least there’s that.
Incidentally, and the reason I put these together, I haven’t read the novels that these are supposed to be companions of. And based on these stories, I can tell you that there’s a demon, but I can’t even a little bit tell you how they come together. I would assume that you would get it if you’ve read the novels.
Inner Strength – 3/5. Backstage Pass 4/5.

Starter Kit – Poor little Belljy (no, really) had something go wrong with his creatures in a tank. I… I’m torn on this story. I mean, it sort of reads like a story about those sea monkey things that you sent in the order form from the back of a comic book and $1.50 postage and handling, except the names were changed to protect the innocent. I felt like I wanted to like this story, but I just felt like I was missing something. I’ll give it a 4/5

Robot Vampire – Note: I read this before in Michael West’s Vampires Don’t Sparkle anthology, which I gave a 5/5 review to. But I only know this because the author note says so. I really don’t remember the story.
The title probably doesn’t leave much to the imagination here, but I will say that the demon that they talk about is freaking awesome and leave it at that so I don’t spoil everything. The story deals with a Japanese family and has the feel of Japanese fiction. It’s the newest story of the anthology, and by far the best written. You’re supposed to lay out an anthology/collection with your strongest stories at the beginning and end (which doesn’t affect me because I don’t read these books in order ever), and he definitely ended with his best piece. 5/5.

In all, the collection is pretty short – it’s roughly 170 pages and read very quickly. (I read seven of the ten pieces in about 90 minutes the day I opened the book….) I know I have some pretty mixed feelings about some of the stories, but I guess this falls less into the category of a book you’d have to take seriously and more into the category of stuff you’d read as filler or between heavier novels.
He does have several other titles in print and e-Book, including two that tie into this, and I’ll say that while I wouldn’t seek them out, I also wouldn’t be opposed to giving this author another shot, which is a good thing.

I’m torn between the end rating. I think this book knows its place, and that’s a good thing, but it’s not the best out there by an means. Still, the average rating of the individual stories puts this just about at a 4/5, so I’ll agree with that.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Darkness Blog Tour Master Link List | R.J. Sullivan Fiction

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