A triptych of nine darkly comic stories, Omicron Ceti III treads on the margins of American middle class intelligentsia. A high school English teacher rumored to be an undercover agent for the FBI, an international investment banker driven to extremes in his quest for a culinary soul mate, and an orthodontist’s son obsessed by the number three are a few typical characters in this literate, playful, and sometimes disturbing collection. Balázs—a writer once described as "the unlikely lovechild of Vonnegut, Nabokov, and Telly Savalas"—incorporates drawings, lists, and allusions ranging from Star Trek to Middlemarch, testing the boundaries between high and low, comedy and pathos, light and dark.
Reviews of Omicron Ceti III
For its seemingly effortless whimsy and wit, go boldly forth and seek out this most enterprising compilation of disparate short stories. But don’t make the mistake of thinking there’s some kind of titularly Trekkie assembly required. The connections to Star Trek in Thomas P. Balázs’ down-to-earth debut collection Omicron Ceti III – named after a fictional planet in the episode "This Side of Paradise" — are restricted to the book’s title story in which a character is a fan of the show, and consumed with a need to count in threes. (To the therapist who asks about this obsession: “First, I don’t agree it’s an obsession. Second, I happened to like to number. Third, get off of my case.”) And the links also come into play as each of Balázs’ three sections is preceded by an epigraph from the TV episode, quotations which, if taken as an evolving whole, suggest a thematic reach, if not grasp, for an elusive paradise ... Keep reading »
—Gordon Hauptfleisch, on Blog Critics.
Don’t let the sci-fi tinged title fool you, the rich stories in Balázs’ debut collection are earthbound and invariably human. Billed as a triptych, the book is carved into three sections of three thus giving us nine stories in all. It opens slowly with Niddah—a tale of a schoolgirl who must face family, classmates, and herself as she deals with her changing, menstruating body—but quickly builds with My Secret War and the title story Omicron Ceti III, the latter of which is a Star Trek reference. ... Keep reading »
—Mel Bosworth, on Outsider Writers.
... In “Omicron Ceti III,” Erik is a wry and defeated narrator who uses dark humor to put distance between his story and his feelings. On the whole, Erik’s humor is representative of the dry wit that ripples through the entire collection. Balázs manages to infuse these nine stories with a wonderful comedy—dry and dark, yes, but of a relatively gentle variety. ... Read Review »
—Michelle Bailat-Jones, on Necessary Fiction.
Advance Praise for Omicron Ceti III
Though many of the characters in Omicron Ceti III deal with isolation, either falling deeper into themselves or struggling to connect with others, each story is so unique in terms of voice, atmosphere, and narrative that they feel like undiscovered planets, strange new worlds. With this dazzling collection, Thomas Balázs boldly goes into unknown territory, and you should count yourself lucky to follow him wherever he travels.
—Kevin Wilson, author of Tunneling to the Center of the Earth and The Family Fang
Thomas Balázs’s dark wit shines in these strange, often comic, yet wholly human tales of characters who grasp onto their obsessions for ballast as they navigate an uneasy reality and their own slippery selves.
—Laurie Alberts, author of Lost Daughters, The Price of Land in Shelby, and Tempting Fate, among others
One of the many things I love about Thomas Balázs’ debut collection is how confidently his characters steer the leaky hulls of their lives onto rocky shores. Sound bleak? It isn’t. Blindfolded, gangplanked, still imagining they're at the helm, they whistle merrily nonetheless. That’s what is so remarkable about these stories. Somehow, Balázs manages to infuse stories that in lesser hands would seem unremittingly bleak with humor, compassion, charm, and ample vitality. Their lives might be a wreck, but Balázs never abandons them.
—Robin Hemley, author of Turning Life into Fiction, DO OVER! and Nola