The Mutation of Fortune is not an easy book to get a fix on.Â The stories are too fluid to be easily grasped for quick summary.Â The ground beneath the reader’s feet shifts too rapidly for simple categorization and analysis.Â In short, the only description of the collection that really does justice is the full text itself.Â Anything less comes up short.
However, that should not be interpreted to mean that these stories are not coherent.Â I found the stories delightful.Â I was often puzzled as I read, but that puzzlement was mixed with wonder.Â Sometimes it is good to be puzzled.
In the very first story in the collection, “The Girl Without,” “[a]fter [the narrator’s] Father removed [the narrator’s] hands, he replaced them with metal.Â Proud of his ingenuity, he boasted, These hands are of more value than before!”Â However, the metal hands “were not endowments,” but rather “became shapeless lumps, flattening and denting at every move.”Â When the narrator shows the father what has happened to the narrator’s hands, the father calls him clumsy, “nothing better than a hen, always picking at the dirt” and casts the narrator out.
In another story, “Soliloquy,” the narrator, who is apparently the same narrator as in “The Girl Without,” receives “a rat as a present from [the narrator’s] aunt who believes that everyone should care for something besides oneself.”Â “The rat has a tendency to get on its hind legs and appear as though it is addressing” the narrator.Â When this occurs, the narrator imagines “a soliloquy for the rat, performed in a high-pitched voice.”Â Hearing the rat making noises in the night, the narrator turns “on the lights.Â The rat is standing in the middle of its cage.Â Its paws are on its face.”Â The narrator watches “as, like a mask, it removes its own rat-face.Â Underneath” the narrator sees the narrator’s “own.”
Though the narrator feels the same in these two stories as I read, it also doesn’t seem possible.Â The narrator with the metal hands whose father berates and casts out the narrator when the metal hands turn out to not be as wonderful as once imagined cannot possibly be the same narrator who sees a rat take off its face to reveal the narrator’s face.Â Yet, at the same time, these narrators seem the same.Â Something has morphed between these two stories, something that seems to change the destiny that surrounds the narrator but leaves the narrator somehow unchanged.
In yet another story, “The Well,” in a “courtyard there is a well where [the narrator drops] things [the narrator] is no longer interested in keeping.”Â Also, the narrator has a stamp “collection organized by animals and their degree of ferocity.”Â When the narrator is not around, the narrator’s brother keeps rearranging the stamps alphabetically because the brother says that the “most superior arrangement is alphabetically.”Â Despite being told “many times that if he does not stop reorganizing [the narrator’s] stamp collection [the narrator] will throw him into the well, he continues to alphabetize the stamps.Â As promised, the narrator throws the brother into the well.Â However, when the narrator wakes “in the morning all the things [the narrator has] thrown in the well are on the ground in the courtyard.”Â “These things are in piles, including [the] brother, who has placed himself next to a basket, a balloon, and a book.”
Again, this third narrator somehow mirrors the two mentioned above, and yet is not the same.Â Though the stories seem to parallel each other in some ways, there are distortions in the reflections that each cast on and absorb from each other.Â As I continued to read, this somehow made me feel that I was continually progressing at the same time that my method of transport as well as my destination changed in subtle, or sometimes not so subtle, ways.
However, even though I could not trust that any footing that I managed to find would not evaporate a few words later, I did not feel lost.Â As the world beneath the words altered, the narrator’s voice remained consistent and felt like a guide that I could follow.Â While there was something in the tone or perhaps in the continuous mutations themselves that instilled in me undeniable sensations of ever-present danger and urgency, the voice of the narrator soothed me and promised marvels. I found this constant push and pull enchanting.
I greatly enjoyed reading The Mutation of Fortune.Â The stories are imaginative, delightful, and definitely unusual.Â Adams has found a way, in my humble opinion, to do something different without losing coherency.Â There is a simplicity to the confusion that I found particularly endearing.Â I sincerely hope that this book is more widely distributed than the initial edition of 500 copies, as I’m certain that a much greater number of people would love to read this book.
~David S. Atkinson is a Nebraska-born writer currently living in Denver.Â He holds an MFA from the University of Nebraska.Â His stories have appeared in (and/or are soon to be appearing in) “Gray Sparrow,” â€œChildren Churches and Daddies,â€ â€œSplit Quarterly,â€ â€œCannoli Pie,â€ â€œC4: The Chamber Four Lit Mag,â€ “Brave Blue Mice,” and “Fine Lines.”Â His book reviews have appeared in “Gently Read Literature,” “The Rumpus,” and “All Things Pankish.” Â The web site dedicated to his writing can be found atÂ http://davidsatkinsonwriting.com/. Â He currently serves as a reader for “Gray Sparrow” and in his non-literary time he works as a patent attorney in Denver.~