Song for the Unraveling of the World


Reviewed by Kaeley DeLuca

Song for the Unraveling of the World By Brian Evenson, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Coffee House Press, 240 pages, $16.95

Brian Evenson has crafted a masterful new edition to his successful fiction career.

Song for the Unraveling of the World is a kaleidoscopic collection of literary fiction, sci-fi, and horror. He dives deep into the recesses of the human psyche selling us our darkest fears, our deepest paranoias, and our world through an eerie apocalyptic lens. He suggests what could be, what should’ve been, and what we couldn’t even fathom.

With over twenty works of fiction under his belt, Evenson released his newest masterpiece in early June this year. Evenson is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and three O. Henry Prizes. He was a finalist for the Edgar award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the World Fantasy Award.  He is also the winner of the International Horror Guild Award and the American Library Association’s award for Best Horror Novel. His collections of literary fiction are delightfully successful, making Song for the Unraveling of the World a gripping read.

Evenson’s ability to turn regular scenarios into something darker, emotionally charged, and deeply disturbing, is thoroughly demonstrated throughout the layers of the collection. He covers topics pertaining to disorienting issues, whether it be social injustices seen today, or solely the hypothetical. Paranoia, missing persons and gruesome acts of desperation not only magnifies the uglier side of humanity through use of fiction, but also holds a mirror to the audience, asking us, as readers, to what extent would we go when faced with such an ethical or moral dilemma? If something we are battling with is not necessarily human, does that justify killing it? If we do something and justify it, does that make it less wrong? How far will people go until pushed to their breaking point? Where does this leave us, as readers, to navigate our way through the world? Should we view it through such a lens?

His brilliance and ability to write, make the stories so much more than a story. He writes to give each character life, emotion, and deeper thoughts, all while encouraging the reader to invest in each piece. Each new story is illustrative of his understanding of the human mind and his readers’ perception. What would you do if you realized that your sister was replaced by something that looked like your sister? What lengths would you go to make the perfect movie? What happens when you allow the evil inside? Isn’t there a little bit of evil inside each and every one of us? Evenson does a brilliant job of harnessing these ideas and turning them into the kind of read that you can’t seem to put down.

Have you ever been set on obtaining a specific goal, something you’re so passionate about, that it drives you mad? Have you ever found something that you weren’t supposed to find? Something that can’t be unseen? Have you been caught in a toxic relationship that you didn’t ask for, and there is seemingly no way out of it? Evenson truly captures these concepts and makes them perform right in front of your eyes. His use of imagery and detail cultivate the perfect environment for delusion and paranoia on each page. Each new story is like a new episode of what Black Mirror could have been. It plays with the mind, it elaborates on the personal and traumatic, and it sends chills down your spine with each ending. It’s like he was saving the last bite of cake until the end.

Evenson has rewritten his own kind of genre, created his own landscape and set each scene carefully. Each story is a new world to explore, each detail specifically calibrated to lock in each reader. Twenty-two stories have been gifted to us in this edition, each diving deeper and deeper into the mind’s subconscious. It is a better concept than what is given to us in each episode of Black Mirror and for those interested in the disquieting nature of the spiraling human subconscious, this is a must-read.

Within the confines of each story, Evenson has mastered the craft of subtle unease. Giving his characters an uneasy dialogue and heavy doses of self-doubt, the reader is left to wonder what level of sanity still remains. Like a collection of Russian dolls, the stories unfold piece by piece to reveal a disturbing distortion of reality, yet some reveal the disturbing truth in reality, which is just as terrifying. Realizing that the problem is in fact yourself, that there is no one else to blame besides you, is a terrifying reality for some of his characters. This concept has been played with in many movies and novels, but Brian Evenson does it so flawlessly that you hardly realize it even happened. It is so brilliantly written that you are able to feel remorse, sadness, and fear within as little as three or four pages. To me, that is masterful writing.