These are stories about fear, what engenders it, how it is magnified, mitigated, or aggrandized into something at once annihilating and sublime. Insight is partial, transport ephemeral but resonantly strange. Uncanny moments of honesty or 'bright rawness' stud the experiences of Hunt’s characters like flashing gems. Hunt is by turns hilarious, wry, wrenching, and lyrical. Her ability to make a deft turn from the comic to the poignant is remarkable, her humaneness sometimes incongruous but never in doubt. For all their eeriness, their unwavering, unrelenting confrontation with defeat, disappointment, and despair, the ultimate effect of the stories in The Dark Dark is inspiriting, nourishing, and finally comforting ... Hunt’s subtlety of vision, her embrace of her panoply of oddballs and misfits, her willingness to make leaps of logic and association in order to link diverse phenomena — these virtues of empathy make her darkness, against every grain, a place of original and truly radical connectedness.
Like the best short story collections, The Dark Dark chews on some delicious, evergreen themes in extraordinary ways ... This is liminal fantasy with a solid literary sensibility; sure to please fans of Karen Russell and Lidia Yuknavitch. Hunt is the master of the lovely and strange tableaux vivant ... she is at her best when her stories seem to almost get away from her, crescendoing into feverish, manic beauty. Horror and strangeness are her allies. But once you boil away the horror, these are stories about middle-class women imprisoned by the domestic in some way or another. Hunt's female characters are full of deep trenches that overflow with sorrow and rage.
If you love strange fiction — Kelly Link, Aimee Bender, Karen Joy Fowler, Karen Russell, Twin Peaks, Stranger Things — Samantha Hunt’s The Dark Dark is a must-read title. This little powerhouse of a story collection is not just a rehashing of the literary weirdness we’ve all come to love, there’s something special about the way it’s put together ... Hunt veers from mundane to odd to unlikely to very improbable so deftly that when the truly impossible finally strikes — in a few but not all of her stories — the reader gets a flash of what the characters might feel: fear and wonder. Intelligent and literary, the collection is so grounded in character and emotion that every level of uncanniness feels organic ... The Dark Dark is a story collection with an organic literary strangeness that is a unique and excellent read.
The Dark Dark wields such a subtle and alien power that I couldn’t read more than a couple of pieces in a sitting without feeling like some witchy substance was working its way through my blood ... With this strange, elemental quality running through them, the people of The Dark Dark are not altogether different from the animals of The Dark Dark, who are wonderfully spooky—the dog that dies and then comes back to life, or the horse that walks calmly onto frozen, cracking ice.
Hunt’s stories are peopled with women who don’t fully trust or understand their bodies or their minds, or the places where their bodies and minds overlap ... Hunt is a deceptively experimental writer. Her sentences flow, her people seem real, her plots more or less cohere. But she is nearly always playing with form on a cellular level ... Like any daring writer worth her salt, Hunt now and then launches a dud firecracker. 'Love Machine,' about a hyper-realistic robot sent in to flirt with, and apprehend or kill, the Unabomber, feels both goofier and more portentous than it is probably meant to, and it resists the emotional investment Hunt’s other stories easily invite ... Hunt at her best is a lot like the uncle of one character, who is described as 'so good at imagining things” that “he makes the imagined things real.' Hunt’s dreamlike images operate in service to earthbound ideas. These stories are deeply imbued with feminist themes. Without being oppressively explicit about it (mostly), Hunt gets at the myriad ways women work to keep their self-possession in the face of social and interpersonal expectations.
Families fracturing, suburban sprawl, the ways that the sublime can be brought to earth and used to sell the most mundane of things: All of these are familiar notes for many an American writer to hit. What makes The Dark Dark so refreshing is Hunt’s willingness to work in the unapologetically weird. For some writers, the presence of the surreal might be exceedingly metaphorical or heavy-handed. Hunt celebrates unpredictability itself. At times, the dramatic shifts from realism into the bizarre recalls the likes of filmmakers like Richard Ayoade and David Lynch. As much as The Dark Dark compliments Hunt’s trio of novels, it also showcases other sides of her work, from playful metafiction to borderline body horror. It’s a welcome statement of purpose, and a reminder that certain familiar places and themes are ripe for their own fictional revival.
The Dark Dark specializes in women grappling with the limits of domesticity, trying to regain some sense of who they are and what they have lost. Characters search for signs from the universe and are drawn to the darkness that lurks beyond the safety of their routine existence ... Hunt fashions intricate narrative structures for her stories; they sometimes end up feeling overstuffed, like an epic novel crammed into a dollhouse-sized book. Some tales leap between multiple points of view; others startle the reader with hairpin twists that force us to reevaluate everything that came before ... a daring collection in which Hunt gives her imagination free reign, allowing her characters to careen off the rails in their search for something more in the darkness.
Many of the narrators in novelist Samantha Hunt’s debut story collection, The Dark Dark, are unreliable. Whether they speak in the first person or the omniscient third, they are not to be trusted. Unreliable narrators are in fashion in contemporary fiction, but their use is especially fitting in Hunt’s stories … The stories are marked with superbly nuanced writing, a rich sense of visual detail and perhaps a kind of courage on the part of the author, as she dares blending fantasy with naturalism. Her characters struggle in small spaces, but we are fully convinced that while the outside world may be swirling in chaos, what happens in those small rooms and dark houses, and the people who live in them, is far more threatening.
The stories intertwine what’s extraordinary and familiar in meaningful ways, taking on density and weight. In Hunt’s imaginative universe, that which is dark, dangerous, and peculiar menaces, but is often not the real threat. The stories subvert our notions of safety and hazard, light and dark ... While easy satisfaction is not on offer, reading pleasures abound in Hunt’s incisive and witty prose and characters who linger in the mind like acquaintances you hope to meet again ... Down to the familiarity of the story form, Hunt makes everything she touches strange, precarious, and unknowable.
Fans of Hunt's work will revel in her first story collection, which marries her signature flare for the fantastic with keen observation and sharp prose ... Even when things get strange, Hunt pins language to the page with such precision that you’ll never doubt her for a moment ... Grab your comforter and a flashlight for this tour de force collection from one of our most inventive storytellers.
Hunt explores various relationships between women and men; the dead and the undead (literally and metaphorically); and lust, longing, and loneliness in 10 stories designed to jolt and beguile ... This excellent, inventive collection...is rife with observant asides, sly humor, and surprises.