A large severed foot of origins unknown. A woman who becomes a snow leopard, another who catapults into the sky, and a collection of historical torture implements. These are a few of the details of Ryan Habermeyer’s worlds, fabulist spaces in which the absurd is more real than the normal. The questions posed in his collection, The Science of Lost Futures, are weirder but no less complicated than other moral quandaries. What does one do with a dead, racist grandmother brought to life by a flood? In the case of “Valdosta, After the Flood,” the answers are sometimes straightforward—put her back in the water—and sometimes maddeningly elusive. As with the daughter launched into the sky in “The Catapult of Tooele,” few characters get what they want, or what they believe they want.

The collection is fascinated by butterscotch candy, parsnips, and infertile or miscarrying wives, and the dearth of female narrators is remarkable. Often women are the subject of the stories, while perplexed men attempt to understand them. In “Everything You Wanted to Know About Astrophysics but Were Too Afraid to Ask,” a man’s romantic partner literally turns into a black hole. The collection is an assemblage of oddities with deeper, quietly poignant undercurrents. From “The Fertile Yellow,” a man swimming in a grocery store full of egg yolk says, “Nobody believes this is the way their life will turn out.” The humor of Habermeyer’s ironic moments make the collection a worthy read. With characters who worked as a “window display model at a mortuary” and reflect that they are “nothing more than God’s pedicurists,” The Science of Lost Futures keeps its promise that the ridiculous is often the clearest path to the real.

BOA Editions.

—Review by Sara Ramey