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The Love Box
By John Oliver Hodges
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
Because of all the short stories I'm now forced to read as part of my job running CCLaP, I can honestly say that it's nearly impossible for someone to impress me anymore with yet another book of them; and that's what makes John Oliver Hodges' The Love Box so remarkable, not only that he manages to do this but with a book cover that's barely above a Photoshop hack job, unfortunately yet another common sight around here that usually portends a quite mediocre book to come. Hodges' stories, however, have a kind of almost magical realism to their bleakness that makes them so intriguing, sort of like George Saunders meets social realism, and it's the collective wallop of these pieces that far outweigh whatever problems the book has in cosmetic touches like its cover. A collection that will remind some people of Kathy Acker and others of Dennis Cooper, in both cases for an almost surreal quality to the extreme sex and violence that is sometimes on display, these pieces take almost a minimalist approach to plot creation, sometimes skipping over entire necessary backstories and just plopping us right into the middle of the complicated, unexplained action; and in this The Love Box shares a lot with cutting-edge science-fiction, and indeed it would not be far off to say that these stories pick up where the edges of Philip K. Dick's humanist work left off, only now with a distinctly 21st-century feel and an alt-lit attitude. A sneakily brilliant book hiding under plain dressing, The Love Box is a good example of the true pleasures of being an indie-press critic, precisely for the opportunities to stumble across arresting, thought-provoking titles like these that one might otherwise never get a chance to check out. It comes highly recommended to one and all.
Out of 10: 9.3