3.5 out of 5: Down to a Sunless Sea is a collection of fifteen short stories. Some of the stories are longer than others, but for the most part, these are very brief set pieces. More often than not, nothing happens. The apparent point is to invoke a certain mood or to describe a particular emotional state. My favorite in the collection—“Little Errands”—is only four pages, but that small space is sufficient to expose the minor paranoias and insecurities we all confront, even when completing the most mundane tasks. In another favorite—“Mortise and Tenon”—Freese manages to tell a story, and even to build suspense, using little more than shape imagery. In the better stories like these, the overall effect is impressionistic and a bit mysterious. The weaker stories in the collection could use more focus and precision.
The brevity of these stories, combined with their edginess, leaves you feeling uncomfortable—not uncomfortable in a negative way, but in a way that makes you question how you managed to avoid the unhappy situations and states of mind these protagonists inhabit. In short (literally), these stories will leave you feeling thankful your life isn’t as bad as it could be.