Book Review: There is No Wheel

Amazon Cover

There is No Wheel by James Maxey


A shark swims through a kitchen. A biology teacher dumps a dead angel onto his grandmother’s dining room table. A billion bees swarm the Empire State Building. In an empty attic, a teapot filled with lizards reaches a boil. Everything is understood when a small town sheriff bites into an eyeball. These are the scenes that draw you into the world of James Maxey. Good luck on finding your way back out.

James Maxey’s award winning short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and over a dozen other magazines and anthologies. There is No Wheel collects his ten most critically acclaimed tales.

(See the full blurb at Amazon by clicking on “There is No Wheel” above. Each of the short stories gets a small breakdown. Since I reviewed each below, the review got a little long and I trimmed it here.)



A collection of ten of James Maxey’s short stories, “There is No Wheel” is alternately uncomfortable, amazing, demented, inventive, twisted, and jaw-dropping. As the intro by Edmund Schubert, former editor of Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show states: “One thing about James: he pushes boundaries, and he pushes them hard. … James’s stories require a strong mind and strong stomach. They’re freaky weird and hauntingly honest at the same time.”

All the stories are complete, complicated, and crazy.

To the East, a Bright Star: “He should go on, leave her to her own devices. Except he hated people who thought like that…” This line – a gem – encapsulates the story about two very messed up people in a very messed up situation, types of people everyone else would look the other way when they see them, and holds out a moral as a shiny ruby – like a piece of gum on the bottom of the shoe in summer, sticking with you forever. For if ever there was a time to leave a person behind and never face consequences, the addict had it. He faced a choice between his own personal comfort, safety, and dreams, and saving someone else. 

Silent as Dust: Wasn’t sure until the end who was being haunted.

Final Flight of the Blue Bee: Sometimes heroes live long enough to be the villain. And some heroes don’t need to live very long to reach that point. 

Empire of Dreams and Miracles: Getting deeper into the collection, and the connection Mr. Maxey’s works have to reality get looser – and somehow more direct. For what is more direct than death and more unreal than it not having consequences, until, unexpectedly, it does.

Return to Sender: Crystal has been raised by monks with virtually no outside contact meets a home-school guy raised by religious extremists (snake handlers) while delivering pizza. Comparing backgrounds of isolation, indoctrination, and improbable information, she questions if she really is about to save the world or just kill a guy who owns some old books because the monks tell her to. And with Mr. Maxey you really don’t know where this is going to land.

Pentacle on His Forehead, Lizard on His Breath: Customer service is essential for return customers.

To Know All Things That Are In the Earth: That is … the weirdest and wildest post-rapture story I have ever read that still made sense. The least psychedelic story of the collection. Strangely – the more out-there the circumstances of the story, the more real Mr. Maxey makes his characters.

Echo of the Eye: Oh, um. Well, then. 

Where Their Worm Dieth Not: Another story about the consequences of death not having consequences, except when it does. Superhero version. Also a study of evil, judgement, and punishment.

Perhaps the Snail: An erotica with a moist large, one-muscle creature. A commentary on obsession. A study of rock lyrics. One, two or all three or something else entirely? I think I brought up the words demented and psychedelic before in this review while also saying Mr. Maxey writes full-bodied characters. Yeah.