Design Flaw, Acre Books (Available for Pre-Order)
From the Publisher: Hugh Sheehy’s riveting new collection draws heavily from the genres of horror, mystery, science fiction, and myth. These are tales of seekers, often damaged, who find themselves caught up in skewed realities, facing lurking threats, violent deaths, strange entities, and alienating technologies. Confronted with unsettling circumstances that escalate, the disparate cast of characters—fathers, photographers, ex-cons, police detectives, executives—are driven toward self-revelation and perverse moments of poignancy.
A troubled high-schooler traps a peer in an underground storage space. A traumatized felon returns home to rob the man who molested him as a child. A video game help-line operator suspects a regular caller, obsessed with a disturbing role-playing game, of real-life misdeeds. “Modern Wonders” presents a future in which ailing retirees exist virtually, and indefinitely, wired to a “life-extension network” while the world around them goes to hell. The question for the protagonist, who has drifted from human connection, is when to “log off.” In the title story, an unhappy couple with all the trappings of success and privilege adopts a “designer animal,” a genetic hybrid created to be the perfect pet, but the “grot” makes trouble in the neighborhood, becoming emblematic of a deeper problem. “Something is wrong with the world,” the narrator’s husband explains. “A design flaw. It’s so thoroughly corrupted, I’m not sure how to fix it.”
Inventive and unpredictable, these thirteen stories are wholly immersive, even as they explore complex psychologies and concepts. Design Flaw shows Sheehy at his captivating best.
From the Publisher: Though Hugh Sheehy’s often tragic, sometimes gruesome stories feature bloodied knives and mysterious disappearances, at the heart of these thoughtful thrillers are finely crafted character studies of people who wrestle with the darker aspects of human nature-grief, violence, loneliness, and the thoughts of crazed minds.
Sheehy’s stories shine a spotlight on the bleak fringes of America, giving voice to the invisibles who need it most. A dismal assistant teacher spiking her coffee after school is suddenly locked in a basement with a student who has just witnessed his father’s murder. A seventeen-year-old girl at a skate rink whose name no one can remember is motherless, friendless, and sure she will be the next to go. The heartbroken victim of a miscarriage dreams of her fetus’s voyage through the earth’s plumbing. The estranged addict son, certain of his innate goodness, loses himself in a blizzard and fails his family again. Sheehy’s characters learn that however invisible they may feel and whatever their intentions, their actions incur a cost both to themselves and those around them. They struggle to tame or come to terms with the forces they meet-the tragedies-that are far larger than their small existences. In this debut, Sheehy illuminates the all-but-silent note of adult loneliness and how we cope with it or, perhaps, just move past it.