Roads are dangerous
places even if you're a skilled driver. If you don't believe that,
then you'd better secure a copy of Gary A. Braunbeck's
latest book and read it carefully. 'Destinations Unknown' is a collection
featuring a novella and two stories about cars and highways and strange
events occurring to their drivers.
The novella, "Road Mama and Daddy Bliss" is an offbeat piece
where Braunbeck lets his vivid imagination run wild. A young man assigned
community service duty with the city morgue realizes that the death
of an old lady is not what it appears to be. And the peculiar state
house, filled with an amazing amount of strange "toys" (cars
and tracks) adds to the general oddity of the situation. When offered
the opportunity to have his record cleaned by driving back the woman's
corpse to her hometown, our hero finds himself surrounded by an incredible
reality where The Road and The Highway People rule indisputably.
admittedly not one of the author's most convincing creations, "Road
Mama" confirms Braunbeck's uncanny storytelling ability. Even
when the plot's credibility is dangerously on the verge of collapsing – which
happens a couple of times - he never loses his grip of the reader.
Implausible but fascinating like a good comic book, the novella will
keep you in
a state of bewilderment throughout its 170 pages, forcing you to
maintain a sustained suspension of disbelief.
By contrast "Congestion" is
a story deeply rooted in the reality of traffic problems, illness
and death, proving once again that nothing
is scarier than life itself. The thoughts and the memories of a
man having a heart attack while trapped in the highway in the middle
of a huge traffic
jam are described in a masterful manner, apt to upset and frighten
more than any work of pure fantasy.
In "Merge Right",
a nightmarish road trip on a deserted highway during a snowfall
becomes to the driver a journey through the events
of his married life, his reminiscences and the very meaning of
his own existence. A symbolic, deeply moving, poignant tale told
with a light
and sympathetic touch. In 'Destinations Unknown', Braunbeck once
again defies genre labels, proving to be a superb writer able to
fiction embedded in the simple, unfathomable mysteries of human