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The Unfinished World and Other Stories

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,072 ratings  ·  204 reviews
In the weird and wonderful tradition of Kelly Link and Karen Russell, Amber Sparks' dazzling new collection bursts forth with stories that render the apocalyptic and otherworldly hauntingly familiar. In “The Cemetery for Lost Faces,” two orphans translate their grief into taxidermy, artfully arresting the passage of time. The anchoring novella, “The Unfinished World,” unfu ...more
Paperback, 226 pages
Published January 25th 2016 by Liveright
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Adrina Cook Depends on what you mean by clean. There's lots of sexual content and references in the short stories, but technically speaking there's no sex explici…moreDepends on what you mean by clean. There's lots of sexual content and references in the short stories, but technically speaking there's no sex explicit sex scenes whatsoever, and the worst you'll get is a paragraph of vague sex. I'm not saying its not there, it's definitely there, but it's more there to give a deeper meaning to the short rather than to be a sex scene. Since you never specified what clean meant, I assumed it was sexual, but just to be sure there's minimal cursing, alcohol, smoking, and drugs, really only one or two stories has any of those. It is a quite depressing book though.(less)

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 ·  1,072 ratings  ·  204 reviews

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Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved, loved, loved this. Absolutely bloody brilliant.

Short story collections are difficult to review - and it turns out that is still the case even if I absolutely adore the book. Amber Sparks has a brilliant mind and a wonderful imagination. I enjoyed every story here and I have already ordered her other collection.

Amber Sparks' language is neither too flowery nor too sparse but hits that sweet spot of being evocative without being too much, and of being precise without being boring. She pai
Diane S ☔
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.5 Weird, strange, wildly inventive, these stories cover many different time frames, different places. The unifying themes seems to be death, how people handle the death of loved ones. But not all. The title story is actually novella length and I liked that one but the one I can't seem to get out of my head is the one on taxidermy. Not sure I liked it but it was memorable. To be honest many of these stories I did not like or did not get but they were well written and varied. But.......I am not ...more
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wholly imaginative and fantastic in the truest sense of the word.
Larry H
Dec 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Many thanks to NetGalley and W.W. Norton & Company for making it available!

The descriptions of Amber Sparks' new collection of stories plus a novella compared her to Kelly Link and Karen Russell. While there are elements of the macabre, the futuristic, the fantastic in these stories, Sparks' voice is all her own—it's at once familiar and unusual, jarring and moving, and quite intriguing.

Lolly K Dandeneau
Nov 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"The happily-ever-after is just a false front. It hides the hungry darkness inside."

Disturbing? You bet. How have I not hear of Amber Sparks before? I devoured this collection overnight, mind you I had to read it on my computer which I HATE doing, that speaks volumes. Can't wait for a full length novel. Here we go...
I won't dissect each story and ruin it because all of them are clever, twisted, full of characters that have both feet planted just on the side of wrong. Their minds are spoiled with
Renee Godding
2/5 stars

I had high expectations, but unfortunately, this collection and I didn't click.
The Unfinished World and Other Stories is a collection of bizarre, slightly surreal short-stories, themed around death, loss and love. It includes a central novella-length story by the same title, as well as a collection of shorter ones that are tonally similar.

What I liked about this collection was the authors imagination and the surrealist vibe the collection eminates. In that aspect, it reminded me of By
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s official…Amber Sparks, I’m a fan. In fact, she just might be one of my favorite short story authors out there. This is the third collection I’ve read somewhat out of order of publication by the author and I absolutely love her writing. The initial appeal, was cover and title, very striking, for And I do Not Forgive You, but now just the author’s name is enough and our library has surprisingly, but awesomely decided to get all her digital books, so yey. Covers aside, Sparks does great titles ...more
Oct 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most effortlessly creative works of fiction I've read in a long time. I don't think I've seen anything quite like Amber Sparks' particular brew of literary sophistication, classic fantasy, and edgy sense of irony. She creates whole impossible worlds in the space of a few sentences, and just when you think you've grasped them, she switches off the lights. Then, when it's dark, the wolves come out.

Many of these stories mix the vocabulary of fantasy -- curses and myths and magic
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, short-stories
When the jacket copy of The Unfinished World recommends itself to fans of Kelly Link or Karen Russell, they are right on the money. These are the kind of short story I love best, the kind where there's just something off about the world. There is fantasy lurking on the sides. Like with most short story collections, I obviously had favorites. And usually the weirder the story is, the more likely it is to be one of my favorites. There is just something really compelling about a well-done short sto ...more
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: story-collection
I am glad I finally got to this story collection, by a smart, fresh young author. She bounces from dystopia, to outer space and back to the every day world. Fans of Kelly Link and Karen Russell will enjoy these stories.
Apr 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
As always with short stories, there was some range, but the best ones of these were wonderful. Some of them will stay with me for a long time.
Jul 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My parents purchased this wondrous short story collection for me from the haven of books, The Strand in New York City. Each tale which Sparks has crafted is an absolute gem. Her writing breathes originality; she is masterful at creating scenes and characters, and depicting the interactions which they make with one another. The Unfinished World and Other Stories is an absolute joy to read, and I for one cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.
Robert Kloss
Sep 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
with this collection Amber Sparks joins the front ranks of American storytellers, if she wasn't there already. lyric, imaginative, groundbreaking, and, simply stunning.
Oh, so good! I've had this on my TBR since I heard about it on All the Books. A story collection that walks the line between reality and fantasy with a good dose of historical fiction. But it all seems so fresh and compulsively readable - I read it in two sittings separated only by the length of time it took to cook and eat dinner. Definite recommend.
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Unfinished World and Other Stories by Amber Sparks is a very highly recommended collection of 19 short stories set in worlds that are slightly askew.

The writing is excellent. In descriptive, precise prose Sparks manages to convey depth and meaning in the fable-like stories, many of which are very brief. There is no overall theme to the collection, which makes each imaginative selection a gem that stands alone. This quietly asks the reader to consider and pondered each selection separately, o
Kevin Catalano
Oct 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"I'm saying the world doesn't need our stories. The world is doing just fine without plot."

"Then why bother making all these stories? Louise asks. Why make art at all?"

Clarence shrugs, scratches at a mosquito bite on his shoulder. Because what else are we going to do?"

--from the story, "The Cemetery for Lost Faces."

In the incredibly innovative and esoteric collection, The Unfinished World, Amber Sparks offers a diverse collection of stories -- and a poignant novella -- that challenges Clarence
Christina Pilkington
*3.5 stars

This was a dark, dark book. Not quite what I was expecting. It's a book of speculative fiction, and I'd say that most of the stories in this book could be classified as magical realism.

I usually really love magical realism. But I think that my tastes tend to run towards magical realism that has a sense of either wonder of mystery. This book was more magical realism that leaned more towards horror or stories that were dark and disturbing.

Now I also love to read some horror books. Thos
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This felt like two different books smooshed together: the titular novella and the dreamy short short stories that came before it. The short stories seemed like dreamy fables; the characters were all held at a distance and each story seemed to be building to some sort of moral (even if it never materialized). I think if I had read the stories in an anthology, I would have liked each of them a great deal, but all together here in this collection the effect was a bit......deadening, the same way yo ...more
Peter Tieryas
Aug 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Amber Sparks is amazing and her stories always startle, disturb, and fascinate. Can't wait to dig into this.
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2016
Really fantastic stuff.
Miranda Hency
Sep 09, 2019 rated it liked it
I bought this collection a couple years ago—I was drawn to the cover and the jacket’s promise of magical realism and fantastical tricks. I expected to love this book but I was a bit disappointed. Most of the stories were too short for me to properly get lost in. I guess I like a longer short story! The shorter ones felt too “once upon a time” and fairytale-ish for my taste, with time travelers, fortune-tellers, and princes turned into birds. This was also probably in part due to most of the stor ...more
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Who can say whether A leads to B leads to C or how many apples John ended up with in the end? Who can say why the loaded heart defies all logic, like an unfinished world problem, like a riddle written in the human dust of a crowded barroom?

My one criticism for this, is that some of the stories in here were a little TOO SHORT, like my brain probably read 5 short stories; each of 2-3 pages in one go and was lost as to what part belonged to which story, ya know? On the whole though, I really e
Jun 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: anth-coll
Eighteen very short stories and one long one, this collection starts off well and has a few gems. Others describe it as quirky, imaginative, gorgeously written, and brilliant, and all are apt descriptions.

My favorites from the collection include Thirteen Ways of Destroying a Painting and The Fever Librarian. The anchor (and longest) story was unfortunately one of my least favorite. Amber Sparks has another collection, May We Shed These Human Bodies, and to date has not released a novel.
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This haunting collection was perfection. I fall deeper in love with the short story genre at every turn, and Sparks is an absolute master. "The Logic of the Loaded Heart" and "Thirteen Ways of Destroying a Painting" were transcendent in particular. And the reluctant orgy scene in "La Belle de Nuit, la Belle de Jour" will fill my nightmares and fantasies both for the foreseeable future. Sparks has that magical ability to turn to art the inner thoughts you find inarticulable, set them to music alm ...more
Mark Cofta
May 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I can't believe I let this sit on the shelf for four years. I loved it, and now I want to read everything by Amber Sparks! The comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link are apt: Sparks' stories might be categorized as science fiction, fantasy, and horror, but are sometimes dark, often clever, and always well-written and smartly crafted. "Thirteen Ways of Destroying a Painting" is one of the best time travel stories I've ever read -- focusing not on the mechanism of time travel, but the motivat ...more
Elizabeth Diedrich
Mar 14, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a step outside my literary comfort zone. I don't typically read short stories, and taking that into consideration, this collection wasn't bad. It was very dark, although it did a good job of reflecting some societal flaws that we have today. I did think that it had some pretty weird combinations. Some stories were weird, some were just dark and some I didn't understand at all. Not terrible, but definitely not a favorite.
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
These odd, beautiful, lyrical stories are like none I have ever read. Astonishing in their breadth of topic and use of language, they are full of emotion and feeling yet never sentimental.

I absolutely love these stories, especially the title story and Birds with Teeth and The Fires of Western Heaven.

I can’t wait to read more by Amber Sparks!
Tanvi Jagtap
Too confusing

I know the book was supposed to be Meaningful but it was not super interesting because it was so vague and obscure. Also the dialogue was not denoted by quotes which I HATE.
Shea Bartlett
Mar 26, 2019 rated it liked it
I thought the writing style of this collection was absolutely gorgeous and ethereal, however the overall content was very hit or miss for me. I adored some stories, but others felt like boring slogs.
Josh Karaczewski
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Slow to grab me, but won me over eventually. A treat of language and strangeness, with my favorite stories including "Thirteen Ways of Destroying a Painting," "Take your Daughter to the Slaughter," and "The Men and Women Like Him."
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