The Very Ineffective Haunted House by Jeff Burk
What?! A review that’s not part of a Featured Author? Yes, due to popular demand, I will start writing more reviews on this blog than just the monthly Featured Author segment. I hope you enjoy!
With an engaging voice soaked in wit, Jeff Burk’s collection of short stories will pull you in from the first sentence and hold you until the end. I often struggle breaking into a new book. This was not case here. Burk combines humor, horror, and the bizarre to create one highly entertaining story after another. There is no pretension in his writing, while his plainspoken language encapsulates a deeper meaning.
Most collections have a story or two thrown in to fill space, but with The Very Ineffective Haunted House, there isn’t a stinker in the bunch. It begins with the titular story, a hilarious tale about a shy haunted house that doesn’t quite know how to scare its inhabitants.
It then moves on to “The Window Shouldn’t Be There,” which is exactly what it sounds like, a window suddenly appearing on the narrator’s house. It took a while to get interesting, but finished strong. Next was my favorite of the collection “Ten Secrets to Survival Clickers Don’t Want You to Know,” a parody of a Buzzfeed article about the apocalypse, inspired by the work of J.F. Gonzalez. It was some of the most fun I’ve had with a short story in a long time.
The collection takes a sudden turn with “The GG Effect.” In a departure from his usual humor, Burk shows he can be both serious and silly, measured and crazy. I enjoyed this side of him, especially with the twist at the end. The story makes you realize that who we are is dependent on so many things.
“The Most Accomplished Crackhead in the World” was just downright fun. While “The Satanic Little Toaster,” an incredibly amusing story of an evil toaster, gives us an eye into the world of toaster collectors (yes, that’s an actual thing).
Burk rounds it all up with a script for a short film “Hipster Hunters.” Surreal and morbid with allusions to David Lynch, it didn’t quite make the connection his short stories had on me. Nevertheless, it was a fascinating look at what different generations define as “cool.”
I read the entire collection in one day (it’s only 120 pages) and could not put it down. I usually favor novels over short stories, but this book was an exception. Burk’s dark whimsy is addictive, matching up against some of my favorite bizarro novels.
Normally in my reviews, I like to balance the good with the bad, but there isn’t much of the latter here. I will say the book abounded in typos, but not to the point that it was unreadable.
Maybe you won’t find the deepest stories or anything too profound, but you’ll laugh and smile your way through this small volume, enjoying every bit of it, or at least I did.