Like the first domino in a chain, the most traumatic episode of a person’s life shapes all things to come. The ad line for this collection of short stories from Matthew Warner sums it up well. Dominoes in Time is a collection of stories that about events that will change the lives of all involved, assuming they survive them.
The book’s eighteen tales of horror and science fiction span a wide range of subject matter and settings, ranging from the past into the far future. Indeed far enough into the future that “Noah’s Temple” features a female pope. They’re arraigned into five sections each loosely matching the theme’s of the stories “Ain’t it Romantic”, “The Joys of Parenthood”, “Intermission”,“Looking Forward” and “Looking Ahead”. “Intermission” is there for one story that doesn’t fit elsewhere and is my favorite story in the book, “And That’s When the Bathroom Exploded” a darkly funny tale of the events leading up to an exploding airport restroom. It’s also about the only humor in the collection, which makes it stand out even more.
Also worth singling out is the last story “Die Not in Vain” about a man with a phobia of flying who is forced to fly to make arraignments for the care of his elderly mother. He starts having visions of his death, which makes both he and his wife question his sanity. But when he learns his mother, who’s sanity has been taken by Alzheimer’s Disease, has been having them too it becomes a whole different matter
Other notable stories include “Picture Perfect” about a strange photographer with an even stranger camera and it’s effect on a model, “Cat’s Cradle” about dealing with kids and felines, and “Monarch of the Mountains” in which silver miners in the old west find something very different from what they were looking for. Actually, there aren’t any truly bad stories here, even the weaker ones are worth reading, but these are the ones that stuck in my mind the most.
These are tales of, mostly, normal people put into abnormal situations and forced to deal with them. Even when they are people of status or power they have all to human issues and failings. Like Stephen King, who’s novel It he claims as his favorite, he’s not interested in writing about superheroes but about normal people forced to deal with things that might be better handled by a superhero. Quite fittingly he mentions in the forward that while assembling the collection he realized how much his life had shaped his fiction. Maybe that’s why it feels so real.
Also like King, although he’s an accomplished novelist and has written screenplays he really shines as a short story writer. I knew going into it that it should be good, it’s from Cemetery Dance Publications and they have a well deserved reputation for putting out excellent fiction. This is one of their better ones and it’s proof that they’re taking their e-books a seriously as their printed ones.
If you don’t mind reading off of a screen instead of a printed page, this is very much worth your time and money.