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book review:

Caffeine Fueled Revelation Machines

The bewildered old man holding a mega­phone to his ear on the cover of Caffeine Fueled Revelation Machines is somewhat of a red herring. Most of the stories in R. Dan­iel Lester’s first collection (but third pub­lication by his own Dirt Starling Press) are written from the perspectives of children or teenagers who find themselves in con­frontation with the discrepancies of grow­ing older. In worlds of sputtering fluores­cent office bulbs, blinking switchboards and space shuttles, Lester’s characters inhale confusion and exhale indecision. As if to highlight this point, his stories are scattered with (debatably gimmicky) forward-slash ambivalences–“Jake hears whimpers/grunts” or “wrapped around each other for warmth/comfort.” The characters are nearly always left stand­ing in puddles of their own uncertainty. In many stories this tactic proves illumi­nating, as in the case of “The Butterfly Question” where the concept of life and death is delicately explained by a father to his ponderous son. But in others–such as “Best Before…1985”–the intriguing buildup of a bear mascot hired as a last-ditch effort to save an obsolete electron­ics store dissipates any potential revelation with its indecisive ending. Perhaps the old man on the cover is less red herring and more premonition, signaling both the ultimate fate of Lester’s characters and the existential apprehension of modern society. A commendable first collection. (Matthew R. Loney)

by R. Daniel Lester $17.95, 151 pgs., Dirt Starling Press, dirtstarling.com

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