“So, from a young age, he started bottling everything up. He was a hoarder, just like his dad; so before long, he had every feeling from Watching The Sunset to Being Pushed Against Car Seat By G-Force bottled, labelled, and placed on his shelf. […] He didn’t know if he’d ever need Sick After Overeating at Kid’s Party or Anger At Self For Missing Train By One Minute, but he thought it was best just to keep them, even if it was just a couple of shot glasses full.”
Author: Aaron Kane Heinemann Published: 2018 Pages: 133
Back in 2017, when I first started properly blogging, I was sent an email by this author with the offer of reading his book to review. I accepted because it sounded interesting, and I’m so glad I did. Gods and Conquerors was such a fantastic book (read my review here) and so I was more than happy to accept a copy of his latest work to review on my blog as well. This time, instead of a novel, Removed Without Warning is a collection of short stories which included a whole host of different themes, characters, and tones. With 12 stories in total, Heinemann’s plots range in genre and, to give you a taste, include one about young boys breaking into a haunted house to prove their courage, while another is about a man who sleepwalks hundreds of miles a night (while maybe getting picked up by some aliens along the way).
What I was most impressed by was Heinemann’s ability to truly portray every single character so plausibly. From grumpy old pensioners, to teenage wannabes, and brotherly criminals to a perverse rockstar, there was a plethora of personalities to showcase, and he really nailed every single one of them. From their dialogue to their individual streams of consciousness, I really felt like I was experiencing the mind and life of a completely new person every time I began a new story, and enjoyed inhabiting their minds. Plus, even though all the characters were different, I feel like there was a part of every story that was somehow empathetic, which I find always makes a read more compelling. As with his earlier novel, this really showcases the highs and lows of human emotion and our astounding ability to be truly beautiful and horrifying.
My two favourite stories were 99 Percent and The Man Who Bottled Up His Emotions. They actually came one after the other and the contrast between them was stark. The first was a disturbing thriller and the second was a wholesome and romantic take on the way someone else can change the way you feel with just a few words. Again, these two stories were such a good example of how varied this collection is. One of the reasons I enjoyed all the stories was because Heinemann managed to end them so well. All of them left me with a sense of something; whether that’s hope, fear, dread, or contention, the conclusions of all of them made me eager to start the next.
Overall I think short story collections can be great, because you don’t have to like all of them, but there’s bound to be one you find compelling. With tinges of black mirror and a whole host of interesting characters, Removed Without Warning was a great collection to get lost in. Aaron makes you think by commenting on different realities of our everyday society with his stories, and while I enjoyed all of them, I certainly hope that a certain few of his characters don’t exist in real life!
Thank you to the author, Aaron Kane Heinemann, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.