Nemonymous Eight (Cone Zero)
Edited by D.F. Lewis
Review by Emily S. Whitten
Date: 27 September 2008 /
Nemonymous Eight: Cone Zero, is a "megazanthus" of short fiction, containing fourteen stories which use the words "Cone Zero" as a jumping-off point and then take that phrase in all different directions. The stories are a mix of the fantastical, the horrifying, the puzzling, and the downright weird. Overall, the stories are well-written and engaging, and the best of them inspire introspective paths of thought, or simply won't leave your memory once ensconced therein.
The aptly named Cone Zero can't be easily summarized as a whole, as each of the stories uses the phrase in some manner that is unique and unconnected to its fellows. Premises for the tales span from a young couple searching for a new home, to a movie stuntman being offered a new role, to a man who has unfortunately just missed his train. Mundane as these beginnings may seem when stated here, the anonymous authors of Cone Zero manage to twist and turn ensuing events in each case into something new and different and well worth reading.
Of the fourteen stories, I found most of them to be of excellent caliber and of the sort that I will definitely think of re-reading at some future time. Inevitably with anthologies, it seems, there will be one or two stories that don't engage the reader or are, put simply, rather badly written. Fortunately those tales are in the smallest minority here, and over half of the stories are, indeed, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, where all the really great short stories belong.
One of the gems in this collection is certainly "Cone Zero, Sphere Zero", which begins with a somewhat bizarre premise, but slowly draws the reader in through its sympathetic characters and clear narrative. The tale is rife with the best kind of confusion – the kind where the reader can't predict what will happen, but really wants to turn the pages and find out – and gains momentum as events unfold. A narrative with a message as well as several moments that make the reader smile, this is a story I could see being expanded into a longer tale or a series of interconnected short stories, since the ending leaves open a number of interesting questions.
Another favorite was "Going Back For What Got Left Behind", which succeeded in making me physically shudder with horror at one point in the reading. The story is well-paced, with a bit of humor and some excellent description. It's disturbing and disgusting and nightmarish and fascinating, with an ending that increases both the horror experienced and the empathy the reader feels for the narrator's position.
Yet another solid tale is "The Point of Oswald Masters", with its engaging narrator, conversational tone, and excellent humor. The story has several levels, one of which is its gorgeous ridicule of the question of how to define art.
A story with staying power, despite some erratic moments in editing that jolt the narrative flow, is "The Cone Zero Ultimatum" – with a fun premise and an ending that really makes the reader stop and think, it also uses humor effectively, and introduces a most unlikely but engaging pair of friends: "a damaged pizza box and a paranoid clock."
Other strong stories include the fourth Cone Zero; "Angel Zero"; and "How to Kill an Hour". As a whole, the collection is solid and enjoyable, and certainly worth a read.