Unseaming is the first collection of short stories from author Mike Allen. With a prominent blurb from Thomas Ligotti and introduction by none other than Laird Barron, this book is positioned to hit the mark squarely within the Lovecraftian/True Detective “New Weird” fiction movement, but it may be more at home in the newly-forming nebula of dark magical realism.
What sets this effort apart from the pack is the marvelous ability of Allen to set up place and character without meandering off the story path—while maintaining a style of prose which remains rhythmical, yet never comes across as mandarin.
The themes explored are varied and fascinating. In “The Hiker’s Tale”, Allen takes us on a journey into the Appalachians, exploring the Melungeon background and folklore surrounding a shapeshifting hiker. The very next story, “Stone Flowers”, reads like an old fairytale. It is beautifully written, poetic, and deeply emotional. And such is the entire collection.
Allen plays with form and point-of-view with a mastery that enhances and enchants without being distracting or coming across as arch. The most impressive example of this is “The Quiltmaker” which is made up of sixteen “squares,” a pattern, “the piece trimmed free,” and “the scrap leftover.”
Highly recommended. I read and savored every word.