You Have Been Murdered and Other Stories by Andrew Kozma
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Short Story (26 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe
You Have Been Murdered and Other Stories is a collection of weird, speculative fiction containing four stories dealing with the end of the world, both in terms of the death of the individual soul and the running down of the universe as a whole.
The title story presents a woman who’s been murdered and still has a dinner party to prepare for. In “Teller of Tales,” a young girl must take on the responsibility of being the necessary conscience of her city. “Breach of Contract” describes the plight of an oil man who just wants to insure production quotas, but is roped into saving the world. Lastly, “The Trouble-Men” details what happens when a man trying to survive the end of the world meets up with those who are ending it.
Andrew Kozma’s fiction has been published in Drabblecast, Albedo One, Fantasy Scroll, and Daily Science Fiction. His book of poems, City of Regret (Zone 3 Press, 2007), won the Zone 3 First Book Award. His previous collection of short fiction is The Year of the Stolen Bicycle Tire and Other Stories.
Life as you know it can change in an instant. Are you ready?
The title of “You Have Been Murdered” gave away its premise: you are the main character, and you’ve just been murdered. The odd thing is, you’re still able to walk, talk, and do almost anything else that the living are able to do. This storyline captured my imagination immediately. I couldn’t wait to find out how the main character would react to such an unusual post-death existence. The surreal ending worked perfectly for a tale that mixed science fiction and the ordinariness of real life so seamlessly.
“Breach of Contract” followed an oil company employee who was trying to negotiate with a Native American tribe who had been purposefully damaging oil wells and other equipment that the company owned. While most of the short stories in this anthology were able to fully share their ideas in a handful of pages or less, this one would have really benefitted from some more development. Everything moved so quickly in it that I struggled to keep up with what was currently happening. I also was never quite sure what the narrator’s motivation was for sticking around once they realized what was going on with their assignment.
In “Teller of Tales,” Susan was determined to see a mysterious group of visitors called the Rustics even though her elders had barred children and teenagers from being in the same room as them. There were so many unexpected plot twists that I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. I also enjoyed how much attention the narrator paid to the small details of how Susan’s community worked and what the main character thought of what was happening around her. I can’t say anything more specific about this without giving away spoilers, but it was really well done.
It took me a little while to figure out what was going on with “The Trouble-Men.” The main character in it has tried a few different techniques to deal with a horrifying group of creatures who can kill a person in an instant. What I found slightly confusing at first was how little time was spent describing who the Trouble-Men were and why the protagonist was so terrified of them. This confusion was quickly cleared up, though, and once I knew what was happening I shuddered my way through the rest of it. This was by far the creepiest section of this collection.
I’d recommend You Have Been Murdered and Other Stories to anyone who enjoys imaginative science fiction as much as I do.