FROM THE NECK UP and Other Stories

by Aliya Whiteley

Titan Books
2021, 301 pages, $15.95

ISBN 978-1-78909-475-6

Click Here to Purchase

What an eclectic single-author collection!

Something — an unspecified catastrophe that leaves the world a barren, cold mess — has forced a group of humans to live their lives in biodome-type greenhouse structures called Blossom Farm in the story, “Brushwork.”

Jim, Lonnie, Daisy Suroopa and the narrator, whose “real name is gone,” tend to the fruits and vegetables of Blossom Farm while the outside world is dying. Terrorists from outside their world on the enclosed farm are constantly sabotaging the structures, claiming only privileged  status protects the inhabitants of the biodomes. The narrator paints pollen onto melon flowers to continue the plant growth — one job out of many to perform.

But for how long can those inside sustain the terrorist onslaught? Can the inhabitants survive?

Other stories stand out:

·      “Many-Eyed Monsters.” Strange eyeball-like creatures emerge from one lady’s mouth; to her, she can’t explain the birth of strangely alive creatures.

·       “Compel.” Alien invaders that one cognizant narrator refers to as the Compellers have taken over the planet, committing drastic acts of censorship to stop any insurrectionist ideas. But she is aware of what they are doing, having seen through the invaders’ tactics.

·      The title story is about one girl, Megan (whose mom is angry at her for being unemployed) and her experiences after finding one upside-down head of a decapitated veteran, Sergeant Neville Makepeace, killed in a helicopter crash. But a special gift his disembodied countenance offers are blue flowers growing profusely from his head, like forget-me-nots, which the girl sells from her makeshift greenhouse. Even in tragedy there can be beauty and joy.

·      “The Tears of a Building Surveyor, and Other Stories.” Violet, married to Tom, a former circus clown, is writing her memoir, reliving her attempt to be a nun and ending up as a circus performer, and still failing. The decisions we make in life can be mistakes, but those mistakes can open up new doors of personal adventure, especially in Violet’s case.