Strange Secrets by Mike Russell – Book Review

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a free copy in exchange for an honest review!

I love weirdness. Strange Secrets is several short stories that are full of weirdness. Reading each was like taking a trip through a wacky, Twilight Zone-esque dream. Everything seems normal and then, gradually, it’s not. These outlandish tales will amuse, disturb, and fascinate, making you wonder what they could really mean.

Such a book is obviously not everyone’s cup of tea. It would surely push many people out of their comfort zones, like how Arnold was pushed out of his in the “Arnold’s Melting Foot” story. Imagine having to absolutely know that everything is a thing—and then something isn’t the thing it was supposed to be anymore. Poor Arnold.

The stories are fast-paced and easy to follow, but sometimes they’re a little too fast and mysterious. “The Puppeteer,” for example. Was the old man, who was apparently controlled by his marionette, an allegory of working a soul-sucking nine-to-five job? Or did he just have to realize that he was the puppeteer all along? Maybe both?

“Maps” was like that, too. I didn’t quite grasp the meaning of the ending, but I enjoyed the story overall. I suppose the treasure that Billy found would be enough to buy him his own house and parents.

I think the easiest stories to grasp were “Missing Persons” and “Reality.” In the former, a girl named Tina finds a connection between mysterious disappearances and wardrobes. In the latter, a woman called Lisa realizes that the world around her is fake (much like ours). I felt bad for Lisa’s husband, though. She really tore him apart. If you understand that reference, I’m sorry.

Of all the amusing lines in the matter-of-fact dialog between quirky characters, my favorite was in “The Constantly Empty Pool.” A sheriff was explained to have lost his mind to a suspicion of leg-shaped aliens taking over the world. Read it and you’ll understand why it was so funny to me.

My favorite story, however, was “The Forest.” The details about the forester drilling holes into a tree were a bit much, but I liked how the couple’s differing perceptions influenced their trip into the woods, as well as how they were determined to make things right again.

All in all, Strange Secrets was a fun and unconventional read, and I will be reading the other books in the series.


4 full moons out of 5

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