“Strange forces and the casual uncanny populate these 14 opaque surrealist shorts from Wexler (The Painting and the City), as everyday experiences take on the high-register, declarative stylings of Arthur Machen or M.R. James. The strongest entries allow Wexler’s accomplished prose ample elbow room: odd, beautiful metaphors and rich sensory detail characterize the Orwellian “Sidewalk Factory: A Municipal Romance,” in which a lonely factory inspector’s affair opens his eyes to his paranoid, imperial city’s flaws. ‘The Baker’ adapts Lovecraft’s ‘The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath’ as a football player-turned-baker struggles with insecurity over professionalizing his hobby during trips to his mentor’s dream-city. Weaker pieces rely on repetitive motifs and uncanny concepts stretched too-thin: bread speaks in ‘Tales of the Golden Legend,’ but has little to say, and the video game–style mechanics of ‘Travels Along an Unfurling Circular Path’ ultimately sputter. These inaccessible narratives will frustrate the casual reader, but devoted fans of surrealism and the New Weird will savor Wexler’s prose.”—Publisher’s Weekly
“Undiscovered Territories isn’t just an excellent collection of stories; it’s also an effective showcase of the broad church that is absurdist fiction, where stories can range from the funny and light, to the strange and discomfiting, to the opaque and perplexing.” Complete review available online here. — Ian Mond, Locus Magazine.
“Undiscovered Territories by Robert Freeman Wexler is nothing short of magnificent. Everything about this book is perfection: the cover, the layout, the presentation, the story notes. Wexler has pored over every detail in his body of work, and it shows. This book is something short story authors will aspire to create. Wexler’s writing is pure brilliance. Effortlessly descriptive, he gets straight to the point, plunging the reader into the protagonist’s world. Each story is captivating, disturbing and memorable.” Aurealis is an Australian magazine publishing science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and is available for purchase as an ebook. —Belinda Brady, Aurealis #149
“…surreal, atmospheric, and not always accessible stories”.—Jonathan Crowe, Strange Horizons.
Reviews of Psychological Methods To Sell Should Be Destroyed
“Wexler…builds his stories around flesh-and-blood people, human beings who, amid their bizarre surroundings and off-kilter circumstances, engage our feelings as well as our intellects.” and “The final story in the collection, “The Sidewalk Factory: A Municipal Romance,” carries this theme further than the others. It is a dystopian satire that skewers the absurdities and cruelties of the present U.S. administration while serving up a love story between a nameless bureaucrat and the captain of a merchant ship. It is hopeful, but at the same time elegiac, as if the author were bidding an old lover a last goodbye. —Paul Witcover, Realms of Fantasy magazine
“…innovative fiction pushes physical boundaries, speaks to bread, belays jungle walls, listens to disembodied sages, and escapes anti-utopias.” —Rae Bryant, The Fix
“Wexler’s prose is fresh and quite different, engaging in very human concerns filtered through the lens of literary style and technique that’s neither condescending nor blatant yet quite accessible.” —Charles Tan, Bibliophile Stalker
“ ‘The Sidewalk Factory: A Municipal Romance’…worth the whole of the rest of this chapbook put together. It is a sort of anti-utopia: the inhabitants of an island state subject to increasingly absurd government decrees. The geography of the island, its regimented social structure, and its relationships with the client states along the mainland all recall Thomas More’s novel, but then it is twisted to distort the image just enough to make it interesting. I loved the fact that if you were able to accept the surreal elements of the world, the whole thing made a coherent sense. This was a place just on the edge of being believable, and within that shape everything the characters do and everything that is done to them makes perfect sense. This could become one of my favourite stories of the year.” —Paul Kincaid, Interzone 222 May/June 2009
“…about half way through “The Green Wall,” I managed to dump an entire container of Won Ton soup onto the book and I remember being pleased that there would now be some substance on the pages.” —John Enzinas, SF Site
“ ‘Tales of the Golden Legend’ is easily the best story of the chapbook. There are people in the world who can speak with bread. Literally. There’s even a section narrated by bread. Simply awesome in every way. This is the sort of story I had hoped to find in the chapbook. There is probably nothing more you need to know about this story besides ‘talking bread’. ” and “Wexler began to lose me, however, with ‘Valley of the Falling Clouds’. I suspect half my problem was character names of Moonsocket and Apple Jane and the other half is that I have no idea what happened in the story. My last problem is that I cannot possibly describe or analyze the story because I don’t remotely have an idea what happened. That frustrates me even if it is a failing of mine as a reader.” —Joe Sherry, Adventures in Reading:
“Quietly stunning assemblage of six stories (one of which appears here for the first time) wears its magical-realist allegiances on its sleeve. And a fantastically embroidered sleeve it is!” —Paul Di Filippo, Asimov’s
Reviews of stories from their original publications
“In Springdale Town”
“…no need for Lovecraftian monsters or rampaging serial killers to transform Springdale into a seriously creepy place. An old ballad suggests that one death haunts this village, but Wexler deviously, almost casually, creates a sense of wrongness that goes well beyond some past saga of jealousy and murder. Don’t read this one right before bedtime–or your next road trip.”—Faren Miller, Locus Magazine, October 2003
“The basic idea is familiar, almost banal, but Wexler’s treatment is witty, his writing is excellent, his characters are really well captured—I was very impressed with the story.”—Rich Horton, Locus Magazine, November 2003
“File under ambitious failure rather than qualified success.”—Peter Tennant, The Third Alternative, Issue 35, Summer 2003
“…Other writers, wiry and wry, as lithe as dragonflies, may seem more vulnerable, but their grace, their maneuverability, becomes its own kind of tensile strength. They can travel farther, faster, and in disguise.”—Jeff VanderMeer, Locus Online
“…lovely Americana set-piece turned on its ear.”—Jay Lake, Tangent Online
“…An emotionally scathing yet tender insight into the frailty, ignorance, and misplaced motivations of that most ridiculous of animals, the human being.”—William P. Simmons, Infinity Plus
“…Robert Freeman Wexler dives into the heart of Americana in his chilling and tender novella.”—Rick Kleffel, Agony Column
“…In a list comprising some of the biggest names in contemporary genre fiction the appearance of a novella by a virtually unknown author causes a certain interest. In Springdale Town represents its author’s first book publication (after only a handful of short stories) and yet it fits into the PS Publishing list with such subtle skill that its presence on the shelf feels as if an invisible gap in the collection has been suddenly filled.”—Lavie Tidhar, Dusksite
“…This extended short story hits just the right creepy note.”—Sue Davies, Steven Hunt’s SF Crows Nest
“Travels Along an Unfurling Circular Path”
“…my personal favourite…a dream-like journey through a surreal landscape. The story moves from one sequence to another; at times viscerally sinister and claustrophobic, at others acquiring an almost farcical realism. It’s one of those stories which fascinates by never quite revealing its mystery. I often find these kind of stories frustrating but this is so skilfully handled and well-controlled that it provides a fitting closure for the [issue].”—Nick Jackson, Infinity Plus
“…the strongest piece [in the issue], a rather dreamlike tale of a journey through a cave, sort of…well, it’s strange enough that the story best describes itself, but it’s worth a look.”—Rich Horton, Locus Magazine, August 2006.
scifi.uk.com : “…Another of my favourite kinds of stories. A story of a lead character who journeys through various states of emotion, only to come back to his original emotion, mirrored by his location. Neat piece which resonates deeper interrigation.”—Richard Hawkins, scifi.uk.com
“…a delicate, complex piece.”—Miranda Siemienowicz, HorrorScope
“With this sort of title, I always expect a story like a maze in which I will wander, lost and confused, and here this expectation is met in full measure. A nameless man walks along a path which seems to have no end. Some of the objects he encounters may have symbolic import. He may be dead; this may be his hell, a hell of his own choosing. He may have committed a crime-the author hints at this, but his hints are enigmatic. The man thinks, at one point, “that everything he had encountered, path, boy, oranges, these beings, existed only for him, unfurling as he drew near, dissipating on his departure.” So it seems, but readers might wish that some of this significance extended to themselves, as well.—Lois Tilton, Internet Review of Science Fiction, August 2006
“Valley of the Falling Clouds”
“a potent exercise in pastoral surrealism.”—Nick Gevers, Locus Magazine, February 2004
“…yet another attack of the New Wave. The magical mechanisms of the universe are unexplained even as they affect, and dominate, Brown’s life. Some of the magic is in the small tragedies of a failed marriage and a difficult work life, some of it in the disembodied head that takes up residence in Brown’s apartment, mute editorialist to the protagonist’s slow-motion struggles. Wexler interleaves odd historical and narrative vignettes, counterpointing and limning the stages of Brown’s dissolution into indifference and eventual restoration to engagement.”—Jay Lake, Tangent Online
“…an awkward giant of a man with four unwieldy arms slips on ice and becomes trapped in the snow. Unable to rise alone, unaided by passers-by, and slowly freezing, he relives the memories of his life as a freak and outcast, despairing at the absence of love. “Suspension” develops slowly but has the quality of a whole life observed. Perhaps this is why, compared to the other four more incidental stories, Wexler’s ending is the most hopeful, affirming that even strangers can connect with and care for one another.”—Charles Coleman Finlay, Tangent Online
“Tales of the Golden Legend”
“…a creation myth, poetically penned, with the astonishing conceit of sentient loaves of bread. There are humorous notes to this spiritually yeasty tale, which takes up another “insanity” premise (hearing loaves speak) and distills it into a meditation of beauty and proletarian honor. Loaves are fulfilled by being eaten and only those which are kneaded and baked with care attain a magical voice, audible to few persons. This is a gem of a story and a must-read.”—Daniel E. Blackston, SFReader.com
“…just plain silly. Different, granted, but still silly. I mean, who can take the idea of talking bread seriously—not that I think you’re meant to really. It was an effort to keep my face straight as the singing bread warbled: ‘Yeast is in the air…’”—Paul Kane, Terror Tales
“The magazine changes pace well with Robert Wexler’s quirky “Tales of the Golden Legend” about the subtle languages that different kinds of bread speak (!!), understood by only a few gifted humans. Dosed with humor, including a first-person narrative by a loaf of bread, this is one of those stories you don’t read every day, which is really what we’re all looking for, isn’t it?”—Erol Engin, Tangent Online
“Besides its very cool illustrations and graphical layout, one way to figure out whether you’re likely to enjoy the kind of stuff that appears in The Third Alternative…is whether you can swallow the premise of Robert Wexler’s “Tales of the Golden Legend” that loaves of bread can talk and certain people can hear them:
On the way home from work, I stopped to buy a loaf at a bakery near the office. I tried not to be overwhelmed by the bread sounds around me. The fat loaves of country white complained about the skinny onion baguettes, while a basket of whole wheat rolls laughed at its own jokes. I selected a loaf of something called struan. The label on the shelf said it was made from wheat, corn, oats, brown rice, bran, buttermilk, and honey. It laughed and talked at the same time, a lusty, world-loving voice full of confidence and mirth. I saw it entertaining the other loaves, whistling like the sound of a baroque flute. On the way home I bought a newspaper and some fresh mozzarella.
“You don’t need cheese with me,” the bread said from within the bag. I ignored it. We can’t always do what the bread says.
Now, if you’re scratching your head wondering if the aliens are kneading the dough or if there is some sort of molecular device in the yeast that has developed a crude borg-like intelligence, maybe you’d better go pick up a copy of Analog, instead. On the other hand, if you find this an intriguingly strange idea, you’re in for a hearty repast. Because this story is sandwiched among some equally tasty morsels of outright bizarreness, served up with gusto.”—David Soyka, SF Site