In [Micro-] Review
ghost ocean combo: a glimpse at the universe in miniature in miniature
Patrick Somerville, The Universe in Miniature in Miniature. featherproof, 2010. 304 pgs. $14.95 paper.
The Universe in Miniature in Miniature is, among many things, a lesson in voice. The voices of Somerville’s characters are so varied and so distinct and so real that, since reading it, I have often mistaken moments of their fictitious lives as half-remembered moments of my own. And while the opening and closing stories serve as the most beautiful pieces in the collection—both exploring what it means to have a dream, what it means to be alive—there is no love lost between each of the stories that fall in between. These are not stories written just for writers or readers or critics or scholars; these are stories written for anyone who is willing to take a closer look at what it means to be human.
But the most important thing about Patrick Somerville's new book is this: it makes you want to bend time; time with individual characters within the world of each story; time in your life—it makes you wish you could stretch those 24 hours into something longer, where you don't have to put the book down for work or dinner or parties or sleep. This book is the machine that makes you forget Facebook and texting and cable. These stories and characters, unlike Grandma Beatrice in "The Peach," do not evaporate, but rather, they permeate, allowing the magical, imaginative worlds in Somerville's universe to forge with your own. It’s this sort of book—one that uses unique, memorable, flawed characters as vehicles for hope—that you’d be lucky to hold as one of the last books on earth.
With The Universe in Miniature in Miniature, Patrick Somerville has brought us a short story collection that touches on big, capital BIG themes. Humanity, love, death, science, absurdity, existence, hope: these are not small topics to tackle.
But Somerville manages to bring up all of these issues, not only that, he smashes and grinds them all together – the tension is there, here, everywhere, and you feel it and you can’t put the book down, and by the end of reading, you’ve been laughing, crying, stirred like some mad man or mad woman.
You will not take long to finish this book. Even if you have no time, you will find time to finish this book.
Because it doesn’t matter if the story is about a hitman trying to manage his anger, or aliens who carelessly blow up planets, or a secret college that prompts people to follow their absurd ambitions. It doesn’t matter if you love science fiction, comedy, or the ill-defined realm of literary fiction…you will love these stories. Because he loves writing these stories.
You know what else shows?
The characters. Patrick Somerville makes them real, unique, fragile, sad, and powerful. You will root for these characters.
This is not just a great book, it’s an important book. Read this book. I’m going to say it again. Read this book.
Heather Cox is the founding editor-in-chief of Ghost Ocean Magazine.
Timothy Moore is the fiction editor of Ghost Ocean Magazine.