Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Microreview [book]: Meet Me in the Middle of the Air

Weird horror...


Eric Schaller’s Meet Me in the Middle of the Air proved a challenging review for me to write. I feel at odds ultimately about this story collection. Schaller’s writing is tightly constructed throughout and he builds eeriness quite well. However, none of the stories truly connected with me in the way that I wanted them to.

The stories in the collection fall mostly into weird fiction, of the usually horrific variety. A Jeff VanderMeer blurb on the back compares Schaller to Poe and Ligotti, which seems an apt comparison. The themes in the stories range from memory and the deception of memory to body and parasite horror.

The parasite and body horror (and the insect horror as well) are all well done throughout. In the author note at the books end, Schaller’s study of biology is emphasized and I can certainly see this in the stories that most closely deal with biologic horror. The second story in the collection is a creepy little number fittingly titled “The Parasite.” This piece also showcases the dark humor that Schaller injects throughout many of these pieces.

The trickery of memory is prevalent in the pieces, perhaps most so in the opening story, “The Assistant to Doctor Jacobs,” which is also the story that most clearly highlights some of the flaws of the collection. The story which describes the narrator confronting his past as he questioned by the police about a childhood acquaintance (and some very horrific crimes). I wanted to like this story—I love unreliable narrators as much as the next person—but ultimately felt it lacked a something that I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps, it might be best to just say the story had a certain obliqueness and distance that made it harder to feel the emotions of the piece come through. This was a feeling I had about many of the stories in the collection.

That being said, the collection certainly has successful stories and they are successful because the emotions hit right, such as in “Going Back For What Got Left Behind” which uses horror to evoke the grief of loss.

And this brings me back to my intro and my divided feelings about the book. I ultimately think that Schaller’s collection is quite accomplished. These are good stories that are well written and have interesting premises. The fault I think lies in that I just wasn’t the ideal reader for them. However, I have the feeling that fans of weird horror (often of a grotesque nature) will find much to enjoy in this collection.

The Math

Baseline Assessment: 6/10

Bonuses: +1 for a really excellent cover design; +1 if you’re a fan of weird horror

Penalties: -1 for many of the stories ending earlier than quite fit for the emotional impact wanted

Nerd Coefficient: 7/10 “
a mostly enjoyable experience”


POSTED BY: Chloe, speculative fiction fan in all forms, monster theorist, and Nerds of a Feather blogger since 2016.

Reference: Schaller, Eric Meet Me in the Middle of the Air [Undertow, 2016]