Shane Darke’s 2019 Tales from the Society for the Preservation of Preposterous Absurdity is a collection of absurdist science fantasy tales. All of the stories feature the head of the Society, Dr. Martin Smotheringale, and are related by his greatest fan, Dr. Martin Smotheringale.
“The Wave Surfer”
Quantum reality warping powers sound like fun, until reality itself is threatened.
“The Curious Case of the Quantum Kittens”
Disaster looms when Schrodinger’s Cat escapes unseen from its container.
“The Ghosts of Gridley Gorge”
Summoned to investigate a deadly haunting, Smotheringale succeeds beyond all expectations.
“The Search for the Missing Gap”
The infinitely long Gap was too cheap to resist, but … having purchased the Gap, where to keep it?
“A Matter of the Utmost Gravity”
A lack of due diligence saddles the Society with the wrong sort of wave machine. As gravity spirals out of control, almost certain doom looms.
“The Note Taker”
A lack of due diligence almost destroys music.
“The Negative Probability Generator”
A lack of due diligence almost kills off the members of the Society.
“The Perambulations of the Perpetual Irritation Machine”
Another purchase, another device that delivers chaos and confusion. Every poorly-considered phrase becomes a horrifying reality.
“The Black Hole of Great Snarkley Street”
Another purchase made without the burden of diligence, another brush with death, as what they took to be a simple pasta maker turns out to be a deadly black hole.
“The Shortest Possible Distance”
Entrusted with protecting the shortest possible distance, the Society of course bungles the job and wreaks havoc with reality.
Why do people send comedies my way? I need to put a disclaimer on my site explaining that my sense of humour is rudimentary at best.
The book’s blurb invites comparisons with Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. This is a bit misleading on a number of fronts. To begin with, Pratchett and Adams are both currently dead and I don’t think Darke is. For another, while Adams might have from time to time given into the urge for surrealist whimsy for its own sake, Pratchett’s pieces, at least the ones that come up in discussion, generally offered something of weight under the comedic surface.
This collection on the other hand is happy to offer quick moments of absurdity powered by devices that deliver what they promise all too literally, or objects that render thoughts all too physical, or similar japes. In fact, a number of the stories use the same basic joke over and over. Which is fine for all you AAA Ace Delivery fans, but it’s not my thing.
The key, I suppose, was to read one a night and not all of them all at once. I don’t know the publishing history of these stories, but this collection felt as if it collected works originally published over a fair span of time. The result is a bit like reading every Ferdinand Feghoot story all at once.