The View From the Seventh Layer
Kevin Brockmeier

Vintage Books
Trade Paperback/288 pages
ISBN: 978-0-307-38776-9
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". . . cutting-edge series of short stories integrating mystery, science fiction, and fantasy . . ."

Kevin Brockmeier's cutting-edge series of short stories integrating mystery, science fiction, and fantasy in his spellbinding book The View From the Seventh Layer make for a gripping reading journey.

The author skillfully puts his characters into mystifying situations; some humorous or horrifying or sad, while his fables offer moral lessons. His stories explore space and time, overlapping between reality and unreality, as well as everyday life situations: a puzzling story about home videos, a tale of emotions of a young girl coming of age, and an account of how a photograph on the cover of a famous magazine can change one's life.

In the title story, we spy into Olivia's perplexing and dysfunctional existence. We hear her voice as she communicates with Entity who exists in the 'seventh layer of space' where the past is indistinguishable from the present. She sells maps from an ocean-front stand and spends her day observing strangers.

'The Year of Silence' reminds me of Joe Saramago's unsettling book about human behavior, Blindness, when everyone in town loses eyesight. In Brockmeier's story, the city falls into silence. Because positive events occur in this noiseless world, the town muffles all sounds by decree. For instance, a rotor blade is developed that cuts through the air like a 'pin sliding into a pincushion.' Church bells, fireworks, ring tones and canned music are all banned.

Most original is the reader's participation in the story progression of 'The Human Soul as a Rube Goldberg Device'. Written from a narrator's point of view, the author starts the story, “Your computer is running slow.' The reader can decide whether to listen to music or read a book. Each decision leads to other pages where the author narrates the inciting incident; again, the reader is provided options, the story continues, each decision moving the story along just like a Goldberg device, a series of steps that completes a specific task.

I place Brockmeier's stories right up there with the old Twilight Zone and Star Trek TV series, award-winning authors like Saramago and satirists like Mikhail Bulgakov.


Reviewer: Kate Padilla