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In his collection, Rice shows that he has a knack for the strange. His works often embrace horror, and they particularly shine when he leans into the disturbing. In the story “Eat,” Martina is judging a hot dog eating contest only to be mesmerized by a contestant who’s interested in another type of food. A similarly grotesque event occurs in “Horrorphone,” when a set of twins finds a box under their late father’s bed and the sound that emanates from it has strange effects on one of them. Alongside the terror, however, there are also moments of comedy, with a prime example in the collection’s first story, “Branch Manager,” in which an actual tree is hired as—you guessed it—an office branch manager, and its two human employees don’t trust it. In addition to some arboreal puns (“I bet he walks around after everyone leaves. Probably roots through people’s desks”), the absurdity of the plot adds appeal to the prose: “He had every right to go home just the same as any other employee. But he was a tree.” Some entries are innovative and experimental, including poetry as well as scripts, such as “Is That Weird?” which the author initially intended to pitch to the producers of the most recent reboot of The Twilight Zone,and “Nothing Would be Nicer,” a tale that includes a Seinfeld-inspired teleplay, complete with fictional advertisements. The poems offer readers pleasant changes of pace scattered throughout the collection; however, their language can feel bland at times. Another issue that sticks out is the fact that each piece is prefaced by explanation of why the author wrote it or what certain aspects are meant to signify; these are informative, but they leave little room for readers’ own interpretations.


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