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Book Review: Tunneling to the Center of the Earth

April 21, 2009
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Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, the first short story collection by Kevin Wilson, is an impregnable force of fiction. It cannot be impregnated.

By that I mean that it’s very, very good. I haven’t been able to put it down the last few days.

Wilson is one of those authors who can seemingly effortlessly weave a tale without the use of fancy language or extra words. He barely even uses dialogue, and rarely a metaphor or simile (and when he does, it’s perfect, i.e., when a character worries about the side effects of hair-loss medication, he muses, “My head could cave in like a rotten jack-o’-lantern”).

Most of the stories have heartbreaking elements, but I was uplifted simply because I was given the chance to read them. Many of the concepts in the book have elements of humor to them, and I laughed out loud once. (Spoiler: In the titular story, a character avoids real life after college by digging tunnels under his town. When he accidentally breaks through the cinder-block walls of a neighbor’s basement, startling some kids, he says, “Sorry, I must have the wrong house”).

Of the eleven stories in the collection, only two miss the mark. The other nine are brilliant. My top four:

  1. “Tunneling to the Center of the Earth” (as said about, three college grads avoid real life by digging. Like the new movie Adventureland, but with shovels)
  2. “Grand Stand-In” (love and deception in a rent-a-grandmother service)
  3. “Mortal Kombat” (two high-school nerds, in the absence of other young love, explore their blossoming sexuality with each other)
  4. “Go, Fight, Win” (standard story: pretty girl moves to new town, becomes cheerleader at high school, spends free time making model cars, falls for a 12-year-old)

Tunneling is on sale on Amazon for $10.97.

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