May 27, 2024

Beautiful Days

By Zach Williams
Review by
Zach Williams lets each of these 10 short stories unfold at their own quirky pace—like alien insects inching their way out of cocoons.
Share this Article:

There’s a quiet intensity to the way Zach Williams crafts short fiction, like a coiled spring ready to snap, or a snake about to strike. You can sense tension lurking like a camouflaged animal in the careful prose and dreamy strangeness of the worlds Williams builds.

In Beautiful Days, his first collection, Williams delivers intensity on page after page, but it’s how he uses the tension he creates that makes the work so remarkable. In stories that take the mundane to wondrous, frightening and deeply affecting places, Williams keeps finding new ways to remind us of the strangeness of being human, and the many ways our lives can transform in an unexpected instant.

There are no real limits to the subject matter of the 10 tales within this volume. The settings shift from skyscrapers to secluded cabins, seductive bedrooms to the quiet house next door. The characters are parents, roommates, neighbors, co-workers, even mice whose lives hang in the balance of another character’s quest for the right trap. In “Trial Run,” a man visits his office amid a snowstorm, only to find a storm of a different kind waiting inside. In “Red Light,” a sexually adventurous fitness buff finds himself in a particularly mysterious bedroom. And in “Wood Sorrel House,” which might be the most unsettling short story you read in all of 2024, new parents find themselves in a house outside of time, watching in horror as their baby refuses to age even as their own bodies fail.

Many of these stories push their subjects into the realm of the unreal, the supernatural and even the horrific, but genre conventions do not concern Williams any more than neat endings do. What’s most striking about Beautiful Days is not the premises of the stories, but the way in which the author lets them unfold at their own quirky pace, like alien insects inching their way out of cocoons. His prose is precise, witty and full of vivid imagery, dropping us into 10 distinct worlds that might all be part of the same dreamy landscape, or might be individual pocket universes. Either way, we can get lost, because Williams has a gift for marrying tension and humanity that calls to mind John Cheever or Shirley Jackson. That makes Beautiful Days a powerful, unsettling, genuinely thrilling collection, one that singles Williams out as a must-read voice in fiction.

Trending Reviews

Get the Book

Beautiful Days

Beautiful Days

By Zach Williams
ISBN 9780385550147

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our newsletter to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.