It's a selfish world, and we're all part of it. Nature is there to draw it out and leave us wallowing in our own deplorable devices and decisions.
Diane Cook drops you into worlds you wouldn't want to be in, and you can't really leave. Environments and landscapes falling apart with people taking all kinds of advantages and opportunities to exist, making whatever rationalisations they need to to get through another day. The days are dark, the skies are gone and the nature of humanity is nothing we can clearly see.
Here then, in the pages of Man V. Nature, is what we have to see of ourselves. The basest, the cruel and decidedly actual. Characters, people, with real intent and motives that claw at you, making you realise part of them already exist inside your skin. The sex in the worlds is desperate, perfunctory, and fitting with the breakdown of it all. Get in, get out and make for another day.
You'll not laugh as much as you'll find your mouth agape, tapping it back closed at the horrors you'll witness and feel partly party to. Then you come around and feel how lonely things can be and, as if you were in the pages, ask yourself, "These are the people I have to survive with/against?"
It's entertaining as much as it is depressing. When you do laugh it's triggered by the fact that you can't peel away. That nervous chuckle you make at a scene when the situation gets awkward and your only reaction is to let some air out lest you explode from dealing with what's going on. Some things are just absurd for where they happen when they happen. A few stories will leave a hole in your gut, and that's a good thing to chew on.
Man V. Nature: Stories is a collection of shorts that leaves you with a silted tongue, tasting the ash of the remains of the world and those running around it are there to get in your way. The truth of horror, as the pages reveal, is that we're all ready to do what it takes, and what it takes is nothing compared to how we bargain internally with those choices.
The publisher provided a review copy.
Reviewed on Sunday, 12 October 2014