Summer of Unknown Writers: Neal Shusterman

By Danielle DeLisle

mindstormsNeal Shusterman. Mindstorms: Stories To Blow Your Mind. Tor Books. November 15, 1996.

Innsmouth Free Press explores those books, stories and writers that time forgot and you should find. First up, we have a Young Adult recommendation from the 1990s.

The reason you should know who Neal Shusterman is stems from the simple fact that his stuff is freaky and not in an R.L. Stine way or even a Christopher Pike way, but in a H.P. Lovecraft way. How? In this collection of tales, Shusterman writes about mass conspiracy theories, doorways to other worlds, killing suns, and even the Holocaust. Each tale is like a Twilight Zone episode for kids. That’s right – these are meant for kids, but why shouldn’t kids have scary stuff, too? Being a kid can be pretty scary at times. These stories put a finger on things that kids can’t quite articulate. Can’t get much better than that.

What really makes Shusterman a literary descendent of Lovecraft is that the tone of his stories has that edge of insanity and unease that leaves you just a little uncomfortable at the end. They aren’t straight gore or monster horror. These stories offer horror that messes with your mind. Something of which I am sure Lovecraft would approve.

You can read the first story in his collection, “Pacific Rim”, by clicking the link next to it in the table of contents below. A boy and his mother seek to forget their troubles on a cruise, but uncover a conspiracy that involves pilots, astronauts, sailors, and even meteorologists! The ending leaves the reader with more questions than it answers. In “Opabinia”, a young man finds out that the only way to save humanity is for him to die…350 million years in the past. In “Dawn Terminator”, a family has to run from the sunrise. Why? Because the sun has gone supernova. Did I mention the being from another dimension? No? He’s in there, too.

Each story is a little different in setting and tone. This works really well because readers with vastly different tastes will probably find a story they enjoy in this book. They are all freaky in a “that is so messed up” way, but Shusterman comes at it from different angles. Shusterman plays on the fact that most kids think that adults can handle most anything (at least, I did when I was in the target age range for this book) and showing adults falling apart in some of these stories really works to keep a kid up at night (at least, it did for me).

If you’re looking for something for your cultist-in-training, then this book would be a great start. I would suggest one-a-night. These stories should each be taken on their own merit because they are all quite good.

Table Of Contents:

  • Pacific Rim (Read this story here)
  • I of the Storm
  • Opabinia
  • Dawn Terminator
  • Midnight Michelangelo
  • Ralphy Sherman’s Inside Story
  • He Opens A Window
  • Clothes Make The Man
  • Where They Came From

Author: Neal Shusterman ( Website , Wikipedia , Facebook , Twitter)

Other books in this series:

Mindstorms is available from Amazon.com and Powell’s Books.

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