4 out of 4 stars
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Fans of the macabre, cerebral thrillers, or off-beat horror should line up for Return to the Dirt, a short story collection by Geoff Sturtevant. All three stories in this collection view death, and the business of dying, from completely different angles and keep the reader guessing with every turn of the page. I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. It is well-written, clever, and deals with the theme of death in surprising and relevant ways.
My favorite of the three was the first short story, The Technicians. This tale features two blue collar guys and their typical work day. They’ve become friends and do the jobs no one else wants to do. The senior member of this team is a seasoned pro, trying to teach his hesitant young apprentice the art of the craft. The storyline is twisty and dark, but it’s the relationship between the characters that really makes this story come alive. Days after reading this story, I am still thinking about it and the characters.
The second story in the collection, The Organization, takes on the issues of senior care, subsidized housing, and answers the question “Who pays for all of this?” Things have been running smoothly for years at the Colosseum Retirement Home. Low-income seniors are housed and cared for until they pass on. That is, until the grocery-delivery man, Mister Kevin, stumbles upon something much more sinister than neglect and bedsores. What follows is a wild ride deep into the underbelly of senior care and features cameos by former world leaders and B-list movie stars.
The phrase, “You are what you eat” has never been more relevant than in the book’s final story. Return to the Dirt deals with the universe-wide connections that bind us all together, and strips us down to our bare elemental components. Star-gazing, stoner-dude Chris wants to finally set aside his pot-smoking ways, join the workforce, and maybe even do a little growing up. Despite no work history or experience, he gets a job in food production and does well for a while, until his old ways catch up with him. Chris inadvertently becomes involved in a work cover-up and what he learns about his employer turns more than just his stomach.
All three stories in this collection are fascinating reads and deal with the same theme – death. I believe this book appeals to a wide audience; however I would warn readers that some scenes are quite gory and gruesome. I don’t believe the author used violence or descriptions of death and dying in an overly gratuitous manner, but they are quite graphic none-the-less.
Return to the Dirt
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