Forever, In Pieces is set up as being the memories of a man cursed to remember the future rather than his past. To relieve the weight of these thoughts, the man writes them down, perhaps as messages to future generations, since he will not remember them when they have become his past. My impression was that the narrator was immortal, but it could simply be my interpretation of a surreal and somewhat disturbing circumstance. With eighteen stories in the book, it would be impossible to review each individually, but I have chosen my three favorites to explore in more detail. The other tales may speak more to other readers than my selected three, but these three appealed to me on a personal level.
My first pick from the collection is also the first story, “The Waves from Afar,” a unique interpretation of zombies and a type of alien invasion. The narrator has lost his wife, Cara, and two sons, Nick and Sammy, to an illness contained in the mysterious, colored waves along the Florida coastline. The disease is spread by short contact with the water and kills within a few days. The rotting deceased, however, reanimate and shuffle insistently back to the water and flashy light shows, turning violent if anyone tries to remove them from the waves. The story’s speaker can only watch hopelessly as his family stands in the surf and wish that their bodies would finally break down and sweep out to sea; then, he can let go and leave the coast behind. There was something both sad and soothing about this tale of a family vacation gone horribly wrong, and I felt a sense of stillness come over me as I read. Ultimately, the story created a sense of watching over a dying loved one in the final hours, knowing that there is no hope and yearning for the person’s release from pain.
The title story, “Forever, In Pieces,” is my second choice from the excellent selection of eerie yarns. Six-year-old Ben is socially awkward and not fully accepted by his classmates, but he still forces himself to give popular Monica a Valentine revealing how he feels about her. Her harsh, semi-public rejection forces Ben deeper inside himself, but a special Valentine from mysterious “Forever” provides him with a reason to go on. Each subsequent year Ben receives more Valentine’s gifts from Forever until he finally never has to be alone again. The main character of “Forever, In Pieces” is easily one of the most disturbing children I have run across in fiction, and he grows up into a rather disturbing, shut in young man. At the same time Ben’s journey riveted me, because I longed to see whether or not he would finally get his Forever. Part of me hoped that he would, and that it would heal the broken parts inside of him. The ending was both creepy and kind of heartwarming; it wasn’t what I had anticipated, but it fit the rest of the narrative. Besides, Ben has found a place to belong, even if it’s a little bizarre.
My final selection is “A Nuzzle, Inverted,” solely because it shows how meaningful the bond between humans and animals can be. Brian cannot cope with his anxiety about the outside world, so he has chosen to lock himself inside; however, one rainy day scratching at the door reveals a scared, small black dog searching for a safe place. Touched by the little creature’s plight, Brian lets the dog, who he dubs Doug, into his home even when Doug’s true form turns out to be far more monstrous than it appears. To me this story was a commentary about how so many people judge based on the exterior of something. Brian’s acceptance of Doug, even when the animal’s physical appearance is less beautiful, warmed my heart. Even when he must change himself to keep his beloved pet, Brian is willing to comply, especially since he has always suspected his mental health issues make him look horrifying anyway.
Luke Spooner of Carrion House provider illustrations for several of the stories in the collection, and his intense pieces and detailed line work add the overall feel of melancholy. My only small complaint is that the pictures were placed before the beginning of the story they illustrated, which made me slightly confused; however, going back after reading each piece allowed me to more fully appreciate the significance of picture.
Overall, Forever, In Pieces is a wonderful collection of stories that will appeal to anyone who doesn’t mind having their beliefs about life, death, eternity, and humanity challenged. It definitely made me think even as I felt entertained by the creative ideas, and I look forward to more of Fawver’s work.
4.5 Inverted Pet Animals out of 5
This collection will soon be available from Villipede Publications, and a free preview may be found here.