Caveat emptor, the Latin phrase generally translated as "let the buyer beware," is a good rule of thumb to apply to blurbs on book covers and most press releases. A corollary of that rule is that, generally, the more emphatic the statement, the higher the red flags may need to go. Naturally, then, when a book is described as "genre-busting," some degree of skepticism is justified.
Generally, though that term is a fair description of The Universe in Miniature in Miniature, Patrick Somerville's collection of short stories. Some of the stories could be described as science fiction while others defy categorization. Granted, genre-spanning could also be used to describe the stories. Despite their variety and at times unusual subjects, common elements and themes connect most of the stories.
For example, the opening tale, which gives the collection its name, introduces us to the School of Surreal Thought and Design. SSTD makes an appearance in other stories that do not involve the characters of the first. Similarly, the random stabbing of a young man on the street plays a role in at least three of the stories. Characters, meanwhile, make an appearance in seemingly unrelated stories, serving to provide a common thread. More important, virtually all of the stories are at heart about their characters, characters often broken in one way or another. Those who are damaged often are, as one says, "stuck in time" or, in the words of another, represent "the human mind trapped by itself in a vacuum but there's a very small window somehow within this empty and airless prison."
Thus, "People Like Me" is about a mercenary trying to return to normal family life, but who is being recruited for another job (one which will play a crucial role in a later story). How far he's been removed from normal life is reflected by the fact that after returning home from an anger management class he sleeps in a closet holding an assault rifle. "Pangea," meanwhile, consists of the supposedly therapeutic journal ponderings of a man in a mental health facility. For Tom Sanderson, the central character in the novella "The Machine of Understanding Other People," self-hatred and a descent into alcoholism aren't as recent as his second divorce and losing his job as a corporate attorney.