(5 / 5)
What makes us human, exactly? Is it our consciousness? If consciousness were to exist in the dead, or the undead, would they still be considered human too? Maybe it is our hearts that are the source of our humanity. If so, is that still true if one heart threatens the lives of many others? Heavy cogitations for such brief stories. Yet in Bloodshot Stories, author Jeff P. Jones twirls and bends and reimagines said concepts with great finesse and artistry, as if they weigh nothing at all.
The tales in Jones’s debut short story collection range from the creepy to the cerebral, from the fantastic to the quasi-historical. Each different world showcases the author’s versatility and range brilliantly. Whether it’s a God’s-eye view of a nuclear bomb detonating, the dark magic hidden within a tin horn’s clarion, or holding your own heart in your hand, they all feel rooted in the possible, no matter how implausible the premises might seem. The author also often teasingly plays with time and place in a way that slightly unmoors you while he simultaneously grounds you in facts and sensory details. What you are reading is where and when you are—everything else falls away like grains of sand through your hand.
It’s as if Jones marinated himself in the fathomless dark, surreal imagination of Neil Gaiman, the wide-ranging, meticulous intellect of Neal Stephenson, and the sublime lyrical objectivity of poet Mary Oliver, soaking it all in (and more) to pen Bloodshot Stories. There isn’t one bad egg in this baker’s dozen, each story solid and satisfying enough to stand on its own. One gets the sense that Jeff is intelligent and creative enough to do any number of things for a living. Fortunately for us readers, he has chosen to write.