Science Fiction, Joe Ollmann, 128 pgs, Conundrum Press, conundrumpress.com, $18
Presented in a lovely brown duotone, Science Fictiontells the story of a levelheaded high school science teacher named Mark who suffers a breakdown after viewing a B-grade sci-fi flick which dredges up repressed memories of being abducted by aliens. This causes him to turn his back on his job, ruin a longtime romantic relationship and spend his days on message boards chatting with other abductees.
The ambiguity of what really happened in Mark’s past makes Science Fiction a compelling read. Whether he was actually abducted is questionable, but it’s also not completely clear if he’s mentally ill. This whole scenario also could have been a reaction to the stress of everyday life and a way to break from the predictability of a routine that had become stale. Or maybe Mark’s finally showing who he really is, who knows?
Ollmann has a keen ear for dialogue, especially in the conversations between Mark and his girlfriend Sue. As their relationship deteriorates, there’s no overly dramatic hysterics, but the reader really gets a feel for Sue’s hurt and frustration as she tries to help somebody who doesn’t want it. As with his other books, Ollmann’s cynical, yet comical way of viewing the world is in the forefront, but thankfully with a fair share of empathy. (Matthew Daley)