“Book Review: Continuum”
Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen
A fantastic short story collection that explores the truths of human experience
Continuum is a speculative short story collection set in the past, present, and future. In a way, it charts a map of human experience; it explores emotional complexity, social connection, political hierarchy, and everyday lives in its pages.
While the stories are widely diverse, a single motif runs through them, uniting them all. Whether we’re visiting ancient Britain, futuristic Mars, or a modern day 20s-inspired cocktail lounge, these well-executed stories dig into the heart of human nature. The hopes, dreams, disappointments, lonelinesses, sadnesses, and fears that humans are mired in daily.
While this is largely a collection of standalone titles, the final story threads the rest of them together. It illustrates the control with which Chad Lester operates, keeping us enthralled with separateness and yet tying us all together in a continuum of togetherness. I closed the final page in admiration of the author’s ability to do what he set out to do.
The whole collection is made up of gems, but a couple of them sparkle more brightly than the rest. “The Lounge” has a lovely, vintage atmosphere. Usually I’m not a fan of the two lonely people find each other trope, but in this story, there’s nuance and genuineness to set it apart. They might have been drawn together by shared loneliness, but they build on it in a wistful and hopeful way.
“Cantankerous Old Man” is probably the simplest story of the collection, and for me, the most powerful. A son drives his elderly father to a nursing home. It’s a fraught journey layered with the sadness of unsaid things and missed opportunities. Conversations hang between the lines on the page: words the reader can sense amid the emptiness of talk. The entire drive feels like pinpricks of incremental pain followed by a slow, agonizing crescendo masquerading as a mundane, everyday event. And then there’s the ending that changes everything, or maybe nothing, depending on how much faith you have.
One of the strengths of this speculative collection is that it is made up mostly of ordinary stories. And while the timelines change, the characters could be any person making their way in their world. Their choices won’t forge a new history, but they may forge themselves anew.
Continuum is a treasure trove of a short story collection. I could have stayed buried in these stories forever.
Genre: Short Story Collection / Speculative
Print Length: 147 pages
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