I really don't like short story collections. I don't like the fragmented stories that seem to go nowhere and then end abruptly. When reading a collection of short stories, I find myself abandoning stories half way through or skipping others entirely, and I usually cannot wait to get the collection over and done with.
A strange way to begin a review of a short story collection, I know, but bear with me because there is actually a point to this. Never before have I picked up a collection of short stories, read it from beginning to end, and been captivated by each and every story. I’ve certainly not been this impressed with a collection before and desperately wished to read more of the author’s short stories.
Then again, I've never read anything quite like Marshall Moore's The Infernal Republic before. I could say this collection of 17 stories took me completely by surprise, but I was warned. The synopsis from the publisher said that “The Infernal Republic is Moore at his best: surreal, hilarious, wise, brutal, and sometimes just plain wrong”. Indeed, this collection covers everything from existentialism and suicide to the bizarre, absurd and surreal.
Marshall Moore hails from South Carolina but currently resides in Hong Kong. He describes himself as “a kid in the 70s and a teen in the 80s, which puts me squarely in Generation X.” Indeed, Moore’s work contains many of the hallmarks of Generation X authors with themes of disconnection and amorality, and I was reminded on more than one occasion of Bret Easton Ellis and Douglas Coupland.
Yet Moore takes those themes one step further. In the opening story, “Urban Reef (or, It’s Hard to Find a Friend in the City),” the mental disconnect becomes physical and bodies are torn asunder as girlfriends discuss landmine victims over salad, briefly joking about gluing body parts back on before turning their attention to a possible jumper on a nearby rooftop.
“Isn’t it funny how the law tries to prevent you from ending your own life, as if it doesn’t belong to you”.
The stories in this collection range from the plausible to science fiction, but one thing is for sure, the Generation Xers have grown up and they are imposing their issues on their children. Many of the stories touch on self-absorbed, amoral and disconnected parents and the absolute damage that they are wreaking on their children.