Leaving the Sea is the latest collection from Chicago born author Ben Marcus. Famed for his stories set in off-kilter worlds and powerfully imagined futures, as epitomised in The Age of Wire and String, Marcus does not disappoint with his latest offering. With plenty of stories that will be familiar territory to fans of his previous work, Marcus again uses his unique prose style to pose questions about the future we are moving towards.
Interestingly, though, it is the stories that are most grounded in the here and now that shine in Leaving the Sea. This is Ben Marcus that we’re talking about, so it’s unlikely that any of his work is ever going to be labelled as straight realism, but it is when telling stories of uncomfortable family reunions, disheartening creative writing courses, and the inner thoughts of an office worker whose wife is dying, that his ability to mix humour with sadness most comes to the fore. These storylines take place in ‘What have you done?’, ‘I Can Say Many Nice Things’, and the collection’s closing story ‘The Moors.’ For me, these were the standouts.
Many other readers would probably disagree, preferring some of the more bizarre and dystopian style stories. But that, in many ways, is the wonder of Marcus. He displays a versatility in this collection that you often wouldn’t even find in an anthology made up from various authors. He does comedy, farce, love stories, sad stories, and stories that I personally can’t define. And one thing ties them all together. That unique prose style; writing that, on a sentence to sentence basis, is up there with the very, very best.
Any Cop?: Definitely. There will be something in this collection for almost any reader, and the stories I mentioned above are not just good; they’re outstanding.