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Gary A. Braunbeck
Destinations Unknown
Reviewed by: Mario Guslandi© 2006

Cemetery Dance Publications
Frist Edition Trade Hardcover
SBN 1-58767-085-2
220 Pages; $40
Publication Date:09-10-2006
Date Reviewed: 09-10-2006

Index: Horror  General Fiction  Mystery

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 of her 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.

Although 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 produce excellent fiction embedded in the simple, unfathomable mysteries of human existence..

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