Edward Lorn's Reviews > False Bingo: Stories

False Bingo by Jac Jemc
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really liked it

In a day and age where plot outweighs substance, I'm not entirely sure this book will be for most. In fact, I can think of only three friends who would actively enjoy the majority of this collection. That's not to say it's bad. It's anything but bad. The problem here is the tl;dr crowd, a crowd that has somehow started to seep into readers' circles. The saving grace for this book is that it is packed with short fiction that is quite short. There are three long(ish) stories, but most of what's on display here are a thousand or so words longer than flash fiction, which in itself is refreshing. But this also leads to a problem, because many have become used to the Stephen King-short-story length, where a novelette is considered a short, and a novella is novel-length. There's only one story in here that I believe overstays its welcome, and only then because I didn't understand it. Will you? Who can say, really?

"Don't Let's" is my favorite of the collection, but a close second is "Over/Under". The former is probably the only story of the bunch that I would consider horror, and even then it's horror in the same way Jemc's novel THE GRIP OF IT is horror. It's dread inducing yet subtle. It provides lore and creepitude aplenty in such a short timeframe. The latter of my two favorites is a story of a sister taking the fall for her younger brother. I appreciated this one, as I've done something similar in my life and received about as much appreciation as the sister in the story does, so my enjoyment, I feel, might land on the biased side of things.

Two negatives I must address is a) the book description, and b) the story "Maulawiyah". a) is a problem because it gives the reader false expectations [looks at the title and wonders if this is intended...]. This is not a "sinister" book. Most of it is slice-of-life stories dealing with social situations that some will find uncomfortable, but as I said above, the only scary story, or "sinister", if you will, is the aforementioned "Don't Let's", and even that one isn't what most would call a horror story. Now, you don't have to tell me that "sinister" does not have to denote horror, because I'd agree. I'm not talking about my perception, I'm talking about the perceptions of horror fans, especially those coming off a readthrough of THE GRIP OF IT. If you enjoyed the subtle horror and dread of Jac Jemc's second novel, you'll not find more of the same here. Only one story fits that bill, in my opinion, and that's "Don't Let's". Where b) is concerned is that I simply did not understand the point of the story. It's the only story (and the longest of the collection) where I wanted it to end. Not because I was uncomfortable or anxious but because I was bored. I failed to connect whatsoever, but it is a testament to this collection's strengths that it is the only story I feel that way about.

The writing is as fantastic as I've come to expect from Jemc, and the wordplay is on point. I especially liked the double meaning of some stories/titles. One particular tale is "Trivial Pursuit" about a couple trying to find a new couple to hangout with. Then you have "Kudzu", which is an endearing tale of a mother and daughter living outside of society, and the mother's anxiety regarding her daughter going out into the world. As someone who homeschools not for religious reasons but safety concerns, I related to "Kudzu" quite a lot.

There are a few middling stories that I could've done with or without. Any collection has them, and they're usually subjective (isn't everything?) so I will refrain from mentioning them here on the grounds that I don't want to give any preconcieved notions to anyone who might otherwise enjoy them. The only reason I mentioned the story I didn't like is so that maybe someone might explain the purpose of the story to me, because it went right over my head.

I also fear that some of these tales were not written for someone like me, meaning someone of the male persuasion. When I read THE VEGETARIAN, I got quite a few comments about how I obviously missed the "horror" and "anger" women keep inside them. Like I said in that review, I'm a dude and will only ever be a dude, so I cannot speak to the accuracy of that statement. I know women have it rough. I understand that. But I do not claim to understand the inner workings of the female mind, just as I don't claim that all men think the exact same way. I do feel that my being a dude hindered my enjoyment of "Hunt and Catch" because it seemed like a riff on the struggles women face while simply out and about: catcalling, harassment, those kinds of things. I've never had this problem (of course) so I failed to connect to the person in the piece. Then again, I could be way the fuck off. The story could be about social anxiety period, but it seemed more gender specific. I'm sure people will let me know how wrong I am.

In summation: FALSE BINGO is a great collection of short stories, but I would warn against taking the "sinister" bit in the description too seriously. If you come here for a collection of horror, you will be sorely disappointed. If you come seeking peeks into the lives of others you might not normally read about, you'll find an abundance of tales about interesting people in intriguing situations. Lastly, if you're someone who demands a beginning, middle, and end to all of your short fiction, be prepared for some hard stops and ambiguous endings. Not every story has a complete feel to it, but that didn't lessen my enjoyment. We rarely get concrete endings in life, and I like it when short fiction mirrors that.

Final Judgment: Eclectic and refreshing.
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Reading Progress

April 24, 2019 – Shelved
April 24, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
April 29, 2019 – Started Reading
April 30, 2019 –
8.0% ""Any Other" was forgettable, while "Delivery" was amazing. If it keeps up like this, this is gonna be a lopsided collection."
April 30, 2019 –
16.0% ""Strange Loop" and "The Principal's Ashes" were both outstanding. We're on a role now. I might go back and reread the first story to see if I missed something."
May 1, 2019 –
27.0% ""Don't Let's" is my favorite story so far. This is turning out to be one helluva collection."
May 5, 2019 –
33.0% ""Get Back" was beautiful and brutal. "Pastoral" challenges preconceived notions without being preachy."
May 6, 2019 –
39.0% "Can't help but feel like I missed something in "Loser". I'll return to it after I'm done with the collection. "The Halifax Slasher" had notes of Victimhood Chic to it. Everyone scrambling to be a victim because it's popular."
May 10, 2019 –
47.0% ""Bull's Eye" and "Half Dollar" were both just okay. My least favorite stories in the collection, but still okay. Not a single bad tale so far."
May 11, 2019 –
55.0% ""Manifest" is my favorite kind of character study. Loved every word of it."
May 11, 2019 –
58.0% "Not sure I understood "Gladness and Joy". I'll likely have to reread it before it sinks in. At least I hope it sinks in."
May 11, 2019 –
60.0% ""Default" is a terrific piece of flash fiction. One of the best I've read."
May 14, 2019 –
75.0% "My new least favorite story is "Maulawiyah". I have no clue what it was about and didn't enjoy it whatsoever. If I were rating each individual story, it would be my first one star. Such a seemingly pointless story in what's been an otherwise qmazing collection. I mean, I'm sure there's a point to this story, but it obviously went right over my head. Worst part is, it's also the longest story so far."
May 18, 2019 –
78.0% "Didn't understand "Hunt and Catch" but I imagine it's an allegory for... anxiety? Would love to discuss it with someone. I skipped to "Loitering", which is the final story, and found it a simple yet engaging parable. Don't read many of those these days."
May 18, 2019 –
90.0% ""Trivial Pursuit" was a lot of fun. Had a few laughs, and I enjoyed the double meaning of the title. "Kudzu" was endearing and made me smile. One story left. This has been such an eclectic collection."
May 20, 2019 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Dang. Now I'mma havta ask NetGalley for it.

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