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There’s no such thing as normal. All it takes is a little scratching at the veneer of the mundane to reveal the much stranger reality that surrounds us.

That effort to dig down into the bizarre – even when the bizarre isn’t buried all that deeply – can often result in marvelously strange stories. When weird fiction blurs those lines, giving the everyday that ever-so-slight tilt that sends it careening off into the shadows, it usually proves to be a rewarding reading experience.

And when the writer is also someone with a genuine gift for craft, well … that’s when you get something like Kate Folk’s “Out There” (Random House, $27).

This collection of 15 stories offers up precisely the sorts of funhouse reflections that you hope to find when digging into fiction that blends the literary and the speculative. Folk delves into the darkness that comes from our shared need for (and failure to find) connection. Perhaps we seek to connect with family or a lover. Perhaps we want to connect with an institution or an idea or maybe – simply – ourselves. Those quests can be bleak – particularly when they lead us down paths we aren’t prepared to traverse.

(Oh, and just for the record – all 15 of these stories are absolute bangers. Usually in these sorts of single-author story collections, you’ll find one or two that don’t resonate in quite the same way. Decidedly not the case here – “Out There” is top to bottom gold.)

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