Henderson's best stories are wholly unforgettable. The finale of The Broken Record Technique, the enigmatically titled "W," seems like the stuff of a bizarre TV movie: a young boy is abducted from his family's small-town home by a man who looks exactly like his father. The only witness to the crime is a remarkable toy, an electronic talking marmot blessed with formidable artificial intelligence. As the police haplessly search for clues to the case, the marmot gradually starves to death like a plush tamagotchi, losing its recorded evidence. Other highlights include "Spines a Length of Velcro," the tale of two suburban preteens forced to don plastic suits and sumo-wrestle for the delight of their betting, flirting, and inebriated parents; and "The Unfortunate," the touching tale of a doomed little boy born with a head the shape of a football who grows up in a rural home and eventually takes a job killing chickens.
A few of these stories feel like filler--postmodernism by the numbers that could have come from the pen of any young North American male writer. Nonetheless, the best stories in The Broken Record Technique far outshine the weak ones, and this is a formidable (and entertaining) first collection. --Jack Illingworth