Reviews, Short Fiction

“Travels Along an Unfurling Circular Path”

Infinity Plus: “…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 collection.”—Nick Jackson.

Locus Magazine, August 2006: “…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, September 2006: “…a surreal, nightmarish quest by a man-or a man’s soul, or some element of his psyche-on a route that always reverses itself to an ambiguous beginning.”—Nick Gevers.

SFRevu: “Wexler takes us on a very strange journey.”—Sam Tomaino.

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

HorrorScope (link appears to be dead): “…a delicate, complex piece.”—Miranda Siemienowicz.

Internet Review of Science Fiction, August 2006:  “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.

“Valley of the Falling Clouds”

Locus Magazine, February 2004: “a potent exercise in pastoral surrealism”—Nick Gevers.

“Indifference”

Tangent Online:  “…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

“Suspension”

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

“Tales of the Golden Legend”

SFReader.com (link no longer available): “…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

Terror Tales (link no longer available): “…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

Tangent Online (link no longer available): “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

SF Site (link no longer available): “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

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