Chris Miller reviews NOTCHES by M. Ennenbach
Once in a great while, we stumble across a work of literature that transcends not only our expectations but genre and definability itself. NOTCHES by M. Ennenbach is one of those works, and it cannot be stressed enough that reading this collection will not only entertain you, but it will awe you as well.
The collection starts off with a story of subtle horror with BLUE. It’s a quiet piece, and while it’s short and fast-paced, it also manages to work as a slow burn, and by the end, we are not quite sure what has befallen our protagonist entirely, but we feel his pain and loss as we read his words to his sweet love some distant place away. With NOISES we are treated to a masterful and beautiful tale of love lost and a life felt to have been wasted. We can see the life was indeed NOT wasted, but we understand and care for the character so deeply that we feel his pain as uniquely as if it were our own. The ending is at once heartwarming and horrifying as the rug is pulled from under us in what can only be described as a masterclass in misdirection literature. We even have an epic poem on offer here with PERSEPHONE, as gods and humans mingle and search for love and the sacrifices we make for desire.
WINDOWS is a standout with a look into the mind of a broken person, broken by life and those who should love him the most, and where that might lead a person. But keep in mind, your experiences are never alone and unique to you in this world. The final three stories are comedies, dark comedies, and you’ll find yourself doubling over with laughter at the deadpan genius of these tales. COFFEE TRIO is perhaps my new favorite short-story of all time, about a man in love with coffee, and his dealings with an unfortunate tweaker along with three major points in his life. Simply brilliant doesn’t cover how wonderful this story is.
And there’s several more. NONE of the tales in these pages are yawners. Not a single one. I am typically a very slow reader, even when I quite enjoy a book. It’s why I listen to so many audiobooks. It usually takes me a long time to finish a physical book. Not the case with NOTCHES. Putting the book down was not only difficult but at times damn near impossible! The stories, the characters, the dialogue (more on this in a minute) are all masterfully orchestrated works of art, culminating in stories that transcend and defy genre entirely.
Speaking of the dialogue, the last two stories are quite heavy with it. In fact, the next to last story is ENTIRELY dialogue, no descriptors outside of what the characters are saying at all, and it was brilliant. At no point are you lost or confused or lacking information to formulate a clear picture in your mind. The last story is likewise done, and equally masterful. This is evidence of an author who, while new on the scene, has an absolute grasp on their craft and is flexing their literary muscles to a jaw-dropping extent, all without ever seeming to break a sweat.
So, it’s obvious I’m a fan of both M. Ennenbach and NOTCHES. There simply isn’t a negative critique I can give to this book. Death’s Head Press has picked up another gem with this collection, their first to be released as a newly formed Press, and it could not have been hit further out of the park. I encourage you to get this on your Kindle or snatch up a paperback as soon as you can, and dive into what I’m calling the VERY BEST collection of 2019, and quite possibly well beyond. I don’t see this one being topped anytime soon, that is, unless Mr. Ennenbach decides to drop another one on us soon. And I’m praying he does.
I can’t wait for more from M. Ennenbach. I’ll be snatching up anything and everything he releases henceforth if it even contains a modicum of the brilliance NOTCHES contains. I don’t think the man knows how to write a bad sentence. And for this to be a debut release, well…I can’t imagine what we’re in store for in the future.
Brilliant author. Brilliant collection. Brilliant stories. Incredibly good writing. 11 out of 5 stars. Get yourself a copy and discover what I have: the best new writer on the scene. On ANY scene.