Unlike Reverse Negative, Believers is a traditional short story collection. The average story length is several thousands of words, though a couple of the tales might (barely) fit within the definition of flash fiction.
Believers takes us into darker and more fantastic realms than any of Leslie's previous collections. Each story focuses on a belief system, or on a circumstance, which leads the characters on a journey or quest for truth. But what they find is not always pleasant or satisfying. Happy endings are in short supply.
The volume seems a departure from Leslie's usual haunts of small town America, but the tight focus on characters is present as usual and the book yields some interesting reads, such as Lure:
Standing there amongst her cheap fake potions and powders, I knew she was up to something of no good, and that her voodoo act was just a cover for something larger. As I was leaving, I didn't even bother to sneak out a window. I walked right out, right into the downpour.
Among the more fantastic is The Cathari:
We stepped back and watched flames engulf the building, and the smoke billowed into the dry air of the plains, and the cinders sparked and moaned as darkness descended. I watched the Pastor on the rim of the horizon. He watched the building burn to the ground. His shape was still and as slumped and motionless as the spiny trees of the land.
The Cathari challenges, and as a reader you are forced into darker paths, the downward spiral of the cultists leading you to bitter and ambiguous ends.
One of my favorites, and in my opinion one of the best of the volume, is Clutch of the Adgy. The story follows the journey of a writer/photographer who journeys into the Siberian wilderness to document the culture of the Evenki, a primitive nomadic tribe emerging from the dominance of the vanished Soviet system. The story has a quiet grace and rhythm which made it stand out for me:
...for a moment the scene reminded Olivia of parting from her girlhood friends at summer camp; Olivia almost asked Bira if he would write letters back to her. Then she felt foolish for her American sentimentality. However, Olivia couldn't help feeling there was something lurking between them, a sense of incompleteness that she felt bound them together. The lack that surrounded her was the gap between them that could never be filled, but somehow this was enervating.
Don't think that Leslie has an agenda here. He's simply creating worlds, the job of any good writer. He leaves you to pass your own judgments on what he has written. If you've enjoyed any of Leslie's past collections, you might consider giving this one a chance. Be prepared to be challenged, however. These stories are not for the faint of heart