Aspen Times Weekly book review: ‘Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives’

by Tristan Mahaffey for the Aspen Writers’ Foundation

‘Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives’

Brad Watson

Hardcover, 268 pages

W.W. Norton & Co.

In “Aliens in the Prime of their Lives,” a compendium of short stories, author Brad Watson expertly navigates through the mundane, suburban and domestic trivialities of day to day life to unearth deeper, more insidious issues we face as humans. Murder, divorce, or simply crippling insecurities are explored through a looking glass of such crystalline accuracy that for brief moments you feel transported into the lives of Watson’s subjects. A decidedly sad series of stories, Watson takes a life and breaks it down to reveal what we each, whether chronically or occasionally, experience ourselves.

The prose is beautifully simplistic. Vivid, narratively captivating with rich heartbreaking detail, Watson’s writing is the work of a carefully intuitive mind. He is something more than an observer and his short stories very often touch genuine truth. As all great writing should do, this series evokes a certain empathy for each of his characters and reminds us all that there is much more occurring underneath the surface with any one person than might be evident.

As I progressed through the book it was difficult, however, not to be affected by the deep sadness portrayed by each unfolding vignette. When read consecutively, I felt a sense of futility as each character beat against the confines of their lives to no avail. Life, once so captivating and full of promises, crashed down around them. The stories are fraught with what was, what might have been, and every soured expectation. While this made for a somber read, and certainly is enough to cloud an optimistic disposition, I still enjoyed my journey through Brad Watson’s pieces. I recommend this book to any lover of literature and I thoroughly believe that Watson’s talent is one to keep tabs on.