Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Review: Pretty Short Stories - Unsettling by Stevan Serban, Aleksa Serban, and Milica Serban


Genre: Short Story Collection


“The world is weird. Horror can be funny. You decide.

Great stories don’t always have to be long stories. Thrills and chills are not beholden to word counts. A tale that leaves you wanting more is the best kind of frustration.

Aliens, killers, and neighbors share their secrets, plots, and riddles in this unique collection of short stories. From the apocalypse to apathy, humor and horror go skipping hand-in-hand through the pages. If the fantastical can be comical, then the ordinary can be downright terrifying.

Unsettling is the first in the ‘Pretty Short Stories’ series.


Stevan Serban’s bio on Amazon is pretty good at telling you some of the qualities he doesn’t have. These all seem like the kind of cliched things some authors would put in their bio, so I guess we can assume he’s trying to tell us that he’s just a normal guy or at least not a typical author. He teamed up with two of his kids to write this book (they get credit in the Amazon book listing, even if they receive no mention on the cover).


Have you ever read a book review that was longer than the book? I’m not sure how many words this review will end up being, but knowing my propensity to go on and on and on and … well, you get the idea, I think the odds of this review having a word count that exceeds the 623 words in the book (not counting front and back matter) is fairly good. It will be a new experience for both of us. But I’ll bet you’re wondering how a book could possibly be that short. Good question.

First, I should make it clear that we aren’t talking a children’s picture book here, aimed at a new reader with the pictures telling most of the story and the words being simple, straightforward, and there more to provide practice to the new reader. (I’ve reviewed a few of those with my granddaughter, but I don’t think the review has ever been more verbose than the book. Or maybe I’m wrong. However, I’m sure my reviews have never exceeded the word count of the book for a book aimed at adults or even the young adult or teen audience.) So how does a collection of short stories, 36 of them if I counted right, only amount to 623 words?  Well, if you grab a calculator, you’ll see that the way to do this is to make the average story roughly 17.3 words each. I’ve heard of flash fiction which is generally considered to be a story of 1,000 words or less, with different names for stories that are even shorter. I’ve even read and reviewed multiple books that were collections of drabbles, flash fiction stories of 100 words or less. But can you really tell a story in seventeen words?

Well, obviously I can’t. Everyone I know is getting a glazed look in their eyes and thinking to themselves that I can’t tell the most simple story in less than about seventeen minutes of droning. That story would include taking the tale off on several tangents that really have nothing to do with the main story (kind of like what I’m doing here). It would include giving many more details than the story really needs. (Yeah, I know. I’m doing that too. I can’t help myself. Plus, I have a specific word count to reach and being succinct isn’t going to get me there.)

But apparently other people can (Stevan Serban and his two kids, Aleksa and Milica for three examples). In fact, there is a tale that Ernest Hemingway was out at the bar with a group of friends one day and bet his friends that he could make them cry with a short story that was only six words long. These stories are almost three times that long. Whether the story told about Hemmingway is true is doubtful. There are multiple versions of the story out there, I believe some of them using different people as the alleged author, but the one consistent in all of the retellings I’ve seen are the short story the hero of the story came up with. Here it is for you to consider:

“For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”

Six words that pack a punch. Most stories, even novels that are tens of thousands of words long, let the reader fill in some of the gaps and this story certainly does that. At least it holds back on the details. But it sets things up for the reader to let their imagination run wild. These seventeen word stories aim to do the same thing and do a pretty decent job of setting the imagination off. Each story consists of a short title (usually a single word, but sometimes two or three words), followed by the text of the story which is three fairly short sentences. (Do the math. Seventeen minus one word for the title means five or six words per sentence. Not wordy at all.) Maybe I should have tried this approach in writing my review. This long rambling screed is already well over the length of the book. Maybe the book has something to teach me about minimalism or something. For those who think this is tl;dr, the alternative review is just below. (It’s only seventeen words, just like each of the stories.)


This book is different. Lots of short three sentence stories. Kicks the imagination into high gear.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 600-700 words

No comments: