In the title story, The Unbelievable Death of Joseph Goldberg, Joseph Goldberg dies and becomes a flock of starlings. Portrayed as the quintessential grumpy old man, Joseph proceeds to cause havoc in his new form while processing his incredible transformation.
The Chair introduces us to Gerald, a patient at a mental hospital who paints the beautiful woman he hears and sees without realising that he’s participating in an experiment. The exact nature of the experiment is elusive although the dangers it poses for the subject soon become clear. Surprise twists lead the reader to a satisfying conclusion.
The Dark Matter of Dreams takes the reader into the odd dreams that arise when a man falls asleep contemplating dark matter. It’s a trippy story but Franks fluidly interweaves the eclectic dream scenes.
Without the Simple Science provides a dystopian snapshot of a gathering of friends. Franks portrays a dying world that is possibly all the more haunting because of the lack of exposition.
The one thing all these stories have in common is a seamless blend between reality and fantasy. Franks’ prose is evocative and successfully suspends the reader in the ethereal space of magic realism. Things are rarely as they seem, a fact that is particularly noticeable in The Chair. The Unbelievable Death of Joseph Goldberg and other stories is a quick but striking read, its stories lingering in the imagination until long after the last page has been turned.