Ok, my initial thoughts (from before): this book definitely needs some trigger warnings (rape victims). And it is probably the darkest book I've ever read (and I'm quite glad to have it done). Nevertheless, it is well written.
And my review:
**I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review**
It's dark. For the majority of readers out there who don't think it gets *much* darker than Stephen King, I think it's important to stress that. It's darker than Stephen King. I haven't yet put my finger yet on what the difference is... I think it's like.. reading Stephen King is like reading a magazine, it's glossy. And reading this book was like reading a horrendous transcript of real life events, it's gritty.
Terrible people do terrible things to other people. BUT there's a sort-of moral response in each. In each? yes, it's a series (short series) of short stories.
Overall, the writing was really good, some of the ideas were great (the title story) and unique (though you don't know why until it's over), and some of the stories were deeply disturbing. The pacing was ok -- better in some place than in others. A little slow from time-to-time. But the short of it is this: if you are into reading books about the horrible, violent things that some people do to others, regardless of whether there are any repercussions, then this is probably the book for you. It is well done, in that. Conversely, if that doesn't appeal to you? This one won't sit well with you. Also, as mentioned, TRIGGER WARNINGS should be apparent on this one. If you are triggered by discussions of/scenes of/insinuations of rape, particularly the violent kind, best to stay far away.
I also note that, although many seem to think only the 3 shorter stories are linked... to me, they are all quite linked (though not all feature Mr. Liu). Importantly, there is a common theme that runs through each of the stories, which becomes apparent when you finish and take a step back to consider.
All in all, FOUR of five stars because it is well written and, for those who don't mind the DARK stuff, it is probably quite good. For me, it was hard to read and I was glad to be done, but I can recognize the talent therein.
Autumn in the Abyss is the best of the stories. It also does not have any trigger issues. To describe it, I think would spoil it. Just the most basic, then: The narrator is a several decade shut-in agoraphobe who has spent the past several decades eating, researching the poet Coronado, eating, not cleaning himself often, not cleaning his digs often, and eating. He is obsessed with the poet Coronado and how/why he disappeared, decades ago. Coronado was a poet in the time of the beat poets (Keroac), but with a dark style, completely his own. One day, his car is discovered on the side of the road, the driver's door open, and Coronado is never seen again. As the narrator delves deeper and deeper into the mystery, he starts to receive warnings and hear disturbing "creature" noises from on his roof. To say more would be to spoil it, but I will say that this was interesting, unique, well done. Definitely the highlight piece.
Broken Teacup, La mia immortalita, and Where the Light Won't Find You are all clearly related, shorter pieces. In each, a Mr. Liu appears, rendering the experiences of the otherwise-protagonist(s) more unique. In Broken Teacup, it is two porn-movie makers who begin to make more and more disturbing and horrific films, when Mr. Liu appears. In La mia immortalita, it is an artist seeking immortality, who is historically cruel and indifferent to his lovers. And in Where the Light Won't Find You, it is your average, everyday Joe, just out for a movie on a free afternoon. Of the 3, I think La mia immortalita might be trigger-free (though I would not guarantee that), and Where the Light Won't Find you is pretty light, relatively speaking. However, Broken Teacup does describe in some detail some of the darker projects, and I would recommend staying away to anyone w/ trigger issues.
Finally, Becoming Human... This one is the most important one to note w/ a TRIGGER warning. It is a dark piece, from the perspective of a detective who has become obsessed in his life with finding and punishing this truly horrific serial murderer/ETC.'er and, as relevant to this story, his copycat. This one takes a very interesting turn and has a satisfying ending, but, again, to say more is to spoil. IF you like the darkest, sickest, most disturbing, this will be fine for you and perhaps even enjoyable -- esp. in consideration of the potential consequences for actions.... Otherwise, despite the good that is in this story, the detail renders is the most problematic, as far as triggers are concerned.