Review: 100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories by Michael A. Arnzen

(Review for Bizarro Brigade.)

Simply put, the best single-author collection of flash fiction I’ve ever read. (Gee, qualify much?) Michael Arnzen remains one of my favorite genre practitioners and 100 JOLTS is a prime representative of his strengths, a cross-section of surrealism, experimentalism, pitch-black humor, pop culture deconstruction, and wickedly clever wordplay.

More impressive than the volume of stories is the fact that just about every one is a winner; highlights include “Obictionary,” a deceptively playful tribute to Edward Gorey, “Domestic Fowl,” which witnesses a man’s self-induced transformation into a chicken, “The Cow Cafe,” about a most unusual coffeehouse, and the instructional one-two punch of “How to Grow a Man-Eating Plant” and “Stabbing for Dummies” (the latter co-written by Vincent K. Sakowski).

Good flash fiction, especially of the dark variety, can be likened to a snakebite: the encounter may be quick, but the results are lingering. Arnzen displays this repeatedly throughout the collection with a number of brief, resonant stories, some only a few sentences long.

An absolute must for fans of microfiction. Connoisseurs of the strange will find much to enjoy as well.

(Here’s an animated video for one of the stories, the zombie opus “Brain Candy”):

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