The Soul Standard is a very bleak and often quite brutal novel. Sure, it's technically an anthology, a grouping of four novellas by four different authors. All of them se tin the same city, different districts. All of them rife with criminal activity, unscrupulous rule and a bevy of unlikeable people. It's dystopian and unsettling.
Caleb Ross opens with Financial District: Four Corners. His is a story of a morally unstable banker, who is promoted to the job of keeping his boss happy at all times, at any cost. It is a story ripe with organharvesting, the past careening headlong into the present and the fact that sins are not as easy to remove as say a jacket. It's an unpredicatble and seedy ride.
Red Light District: Punhos Sagrados is the second offering. Written by Nik Korpon, it is the tragedy-laden tale of a boxer. He is one the down slope of his career but committed to getting the big one under his belt, making enough money to get his mentally ill wife the care she needs and hopefully, set them on the path to a normal life. That's the plan, until he meets Carissa, the lounge singer with the organ-picking side line, who stirs feelings in him that threaten the derail his entire train.
Richard Thomas delivers a bleak saga drenched in sadness (it's what he does, man) entitled The Outskirts: Golden Geese. A criminal with an illness has to come to terms with the life he has lived, the consequences of his actions and how to slap a thick enough bandage on the keep the future from bleeding out. Chillingly honest and despairingly sad.
We cloe out with Axel Taiari's Ghost Town: Jamais Vu. A burdened man's quest to find his missing child is complicated by the fact he cannot recognize faces, to give away more than that would be criminal. Raw and brittle like the bones of the hand, this one is one that will stick with you.
Shared universe shit is hard to pull of. I've never been one who cared for it, but when it's done and done well, it can be a great thing. This one succeeds. The writers involved while not all possessing the same style or vision have somehow alligned their talents into a lumbering monster that steps heavily from the exam table, pulls the cables from its neckbolts and shambles into the night of your brain. You'll play on the events of this book for some time.
The Soul Standard is available from Dzanc Books.