Review of “Real Conversations with Imaginary Friends” by E. E. King
This is a book of speculative short stories, written over the course of several years. There is something for everyone in here, but inevitably some stories will disappoint. The range of styles and subjects is too broad for each story to please every reader. At the same time, most readers will find several stories that they like quite a lot; yours just might not be the same as mine.
King’s viewpoint is generally ironic, somewhere between tongue-in-cheek and outright comedy, but she is occasionally almost poetic. She uses a variety of styles and voices, mostly to good effect. She develops mood and scene elegantly in some stories, while others are told more tersely. These are stories of things that are not quite as they seem, technologies that don’t work quite as designed, people who are a bit (or more than a bit) peculiar. They remind me often of works by R. A. Lafferty and Robert Sheckley, two of my favorites. She does not shy away from social commentary, and if you believe deeply in something she finds absurd, she will make you uncomfortable. I like writers who do that.
The longest story, at 100 pages, is “Dirk Snigby’s Guide to the Afterlife,” a send up of multiple religious beliefs, in which Dirk, a New York advertising man, agrees to write the book in the title for Lucifer. This one is more Douglas Adams than Lafferty, and wickedly funny.
My favorite story is “Synesthesia.” It contains the line “The minute my feet touch the floor, I taste dust and dirt.” I won’t tell you how it ends.
I recommend this book to anyone who has a taste for stories that make you think twice, or see the world from a different, often somewhat skewed, angle. Ray Bradbury gave the book a favorable blurb, and he should know; he’s written a lot of stories in a similar vein.
Author of “The Wrong God”