Phillips’ jam-packed collection Infinity and I is a delightful roller-coaster ride of well-crafted tales fleshed out with smart pacing and fantastic writing. In “Life Laser,” an unnamed narrator injects “nanobots” into his bloodstream as a vehicle for escape akin to our world’s addictive panaceas of alcohol, drugs, sex, or even social media. After using up his stash, he must set out to score more, and the story’s world unfolds into a place of New Jack City crack addicts cooking under a Blade Runner heat lamp. Like any junkie, the main character has both moments of clarity, where he longs to kick the habit for good, and moments where he skirts death and must be brought back to life by medical means. The real twist lies is discovering which path he selects and why.
“Sacred Tongue” could be read as straight fiction or complex allegory. Kirra “didn’t look reptilian, not like her mother, but she knew she carried the genes—the potential—and that was all that mattered.” When she is faced with an onerous initiation ritual, Kirra must make a courageous choice in a finale that holds its own with stories featured in classic Twilight Zone episodes. My absolute favorite of Phillips’ line-up, however, is “Neptune,” a scintillating Alice in Wonderland plotline where characters drop ominously bizarre hints of wisdom like “It’s eat or be eaten.” After the narrator peeks into a portal opened by a very special wafer, he attempts to maneuver his strange environment, and the sunshine acid rocket ride takes off, continuing to tickle the reader’s perception long after the story is concluded.
Phillips’ writing is simply mesmeric: melodic without collapsing into trite idioms or purple prose. Descriptions like “It settles into a comforting valley where I drift, my body lurching up, outside of my control, a puppet tied to the will of its master,” and “I let the gravitational platform skim me up like the catch of the day, packed in like sardines with so many others” ooze naturally from the text, building upon instead of distracting from the setting. His imagery is sharp and effective, luring the reader into his fanciful worlds without appearing forced or showy. The Co-Vid pandemic had grounded most of us, and Infinity and I offers an array of mental vacations in which a reader can happily escape.