By Michael Giltz
Updated April 19, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

With Grey Area, the smart, technically adroit Will Self has written nine short stories, all with arrestingly bizarre situations taken to their logical — often too logical — conclusions. Time and again, Self takes an interesting idea, gives it a few permutations, and then settles for a flat punchline. Concept is all. But when we can’t see the literary machinery working, the results are striking: ”Chest” is a strangely poignant look at the upper class in a pollution-scarred future; ”Incubus” eerily details a graduate student’s sleeping with her mentor; and the tour de force ”Scale” charts the disintegrating life of a morphine-addicted man working on a thesis about the M40 highway. For the moment, Self is too talented a writer to ignore, but too clever a stylist by half to fully enjoy.

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