Spellbinding, confident, and one-of-a-kind, BURN THE PLANS by Tyler Jones (Criterium, The Dark Side of the Room, Almost Ruth and Enter Softly) is one that will stay with me for a while to come. Composed of fifteen short stories, BURNT HE PLANS makes us question our reality while challenging family ties and the American values that shape them. Jones’s prose is incisive and all-consuming and is an incredible ode to the power of storytelling.
The first story is “Corporation”, where a poor boy, raised in the shadow of a large corporate tower, learns what it takes to fulfill his idea of success. Jones starts his collection off strong with lots of symbolism as he skillfully portrays a hellscape of Corporate America.
In “Trigger”, the longest story and a personal favorite, two brothers are forced to grow up fast when they come to terms with the fragile bones of their nuclear family. Jones’ literary style is particularly wonderful in this story. In order to convey the narrowed focus and heightened senses of a panic attack, Jones wrote a page-long run-on sentence that sheds the burdens of our protagonist onto the reader themselves. Reading “Trigger” felt like I was amongst a short story classic.
In “The Devil on The Stand”, a courtroom sketch artist loses control over her sketches. She seems to portray media in a particularly malefic light. A media that shapes and skews our perspectives, particularly that of women. This story is an imaginative depiction of bias and how we only see what we want to see.
Some stories feel the full weight of hasty decisions. In “Warlock”, one must make a deal with the devil in order to protect the ones they love most. It is a visceral story filled with the pop, crack and crunch of bones. Others, like “Red Hands”, punish our innate childish curiosities. It seamlessly merges Dark and It together into a harrowing tale of a group of misfits who stumble upon an ominous tunnel in the woods. As the arguably scariest story of the lot, “Red Hands” should be adapted into a short film.
The last story, “Full Fathom Five”, delivers a punch. A kid’s nose-picking habit reveals more than just a gross quirk. Jones closes out his collection by exploring some age-old existential questions and the universe’s firm grip on our fate.
My favorite stories were either clever nods to the pitfalls of (American) society or the heartbreaking passages of children being forced to grow up too fast. I read this collection in almost one sitting with my face pressed up against the screen. You know you have found something special when it has the power to depreciate time.
One thing I really enjoyed was the reoccurrence of “skeletal” characters throughout the collection. They almost felt like little Easter eggs, though I am unsure how intentional it was. Be it a vice president, a homeless man, an actual judge, or even a forest, these gaunt or skeletal characters would play a judgment role in each story’s protagonist. Another theme was a sense of maintaining a cosmic balance of the universe. These stories are riddled with tropes of karma and fate that are carefully constructed to make them come full circle.
BURN THE PLANS is a collection of stories that everyone needs to know about. It is exciting to see such a fresh and talented author on the rise and I eagerly await the next project to come.
Order your copy of BURN THE PLANS here!