In her debut collection Collective Gravities, Chloe N. Clark offers a dose of the fantastic into the ordinary, and sometimes humdrum, lives of her characters. Twenty-five aesthetically similar stories make up the book, which dilutes the power of the collection as a whole, but shows the range of Clark’s fascination with parallel universes, zombies, and the breakdown of relationships. The strongest stories reveal Clark’s gift as a storyteller and as a purveyor of the weird.
In the collection’s opener “Balancing Beams,” the astronaut narrator Ava struggles with an unknown, debilitating ailment in a futuristic America. In a beautifully written flash of insight, she tells us:
I couldn’t speak for a moment. The weight of words on my tongue. In the Out, there had been so many times I fumbled words, slurred them. They don’t tell you that zero-gravity even affects your tongue. Your mouth can feel so heavy when you try to say something.
Other stories seem to take their cues from B-movies and horror stories and the world of science fiction. Throughout the collection, Clark remakes these historically male-dominated forms to center her stories on women and the deleterious effects of culture on their bodies.
Clark’s debut is a mixed collection, yet it shines so brightly in spots that it’s clear she is destined to wow us with her next book.
Collective Gravities by Chloe N. Clark, Word West Press, 2020.
Reviewer bio: Christopher Linforth is the author of three story collections, The Distortions (Orison Books, 2021), winner of the 2020 Orison Books Fiction Prize, Directory (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2020), and When You Find Us We Will Be Gone (Lamar University Press, 2014).
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