[Review] Down to A Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese

Some authors, when they write, attempt to hide themselves in their works. Any evidence that the work came from a certain person, or that the author’s background really played a part in the book are well hidden. However, that is not the case at all with Down to a Sunless Sea, a short story collection by Mathias B. Freese.

It is mentioned in the foreword to the book that Mr. Freese has a background in psychotherapy. This is quite evident in the stories, as each one could be considered a case study of its main character. While some of the stories are quite dark, there is also an interesting feeling of humor in them as well, as if the author is hiding a snicker as he writes the work.

It’s a bit more difficult to review a book of short stories, especially when the stories are different enough that I found myself liking some and disliking others. The start had me worried, because the first couple of stories I really felt like I wasn’t getting it. It seemed, though, that the stories matured and improved as the collection went on. There’s no evidence that the stories were put together in chronological order, but that’s the feeling I got.

So here were some of the highlights for me:

  • “Herbie”: The story of a boy who wants to shine shoes just like his father. There’s true depth in this story and I was reminded strangely of a Philip K. Dick story, “Foster, You’re Dead” even though only the age of the main character was even remotely related.
  • “Echo”: This examination of friendship in the face of personal laziness is very compelling and makes you feel sorry for the main character while at the same time berating him for not paying attention.
  • “Little Errands”: A very short story, but one which will stick with me. What does it feel like in the mind of an obsessive compulsive?

As I say, there were some low points as well. I didn’t really get what the author was trying to do with the story that gives the book it’s title. A couple of the other stories also came off as rather crude and I was put off by them.

Overall, though, a good collection of stories. It’s a quick read to get through the first time, and there’s enough depth in the stories to warrant a second read.

Grade: B-

Who would like it: Anyone really interested in psychology and character-driven stories that will challenge you.

Who wouldn’t like it: People put off by vulgarity.

Note: This book was sent to me as a review copy. While I try not to let this alter my review, I feel that it is only fair, in there interest of full disclosure, to let you know.

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