As a general rule, I avoid short story collections. I prefer to spend some time with a novel or else to work quickly through a volume of poetry. What was different about The Kafka Effekt was the jacket copy that promised a cross between Kafka and one of my all-time favorite authors, William S. Burroughs.
Reading through this collage of forty-four short stories and short shorts (under a page), it is easy to see the promised similarities. In places characters get tangled in some Kafkaesque paradox as in "The Message," where the narrator trades correspondence with an unknown mailer sending him a message promising a message. Meanwhile, in stories like "Feet" about body parts revolting, it seems clear that Wilson has at least passing knowledge of classic Burroughs routines like "The Man Who Taught His Asshole to Talk," or maybe Clive Barker shorts like "The Body Politic." Still, it would be unfair to limit the comparisons to Kafka and Burroughs. Wilson's stories follow their own absurd patterns that remind me more at times of satiric high literature like French author Eric Chevillard's Crab Nebula, and other times of the biting irony from Mark Leyner (My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist).
Wilson obviously has a great sense of what he wants to accomplish in his writing, and that comes across in every bizarre corner he explores. That sort of overwhelming foreknowledge, however, ruins many stories by making even the strangest endings predictable. At other times, the reader might start to love the concept of a story just as it comes to an end (the stories themselves are often too short). Still, there is a lot to love about The Kafka Effekt, and a lot of thinking that it inspires. The strong concepts outweigh the weak moments, making this an interesting ride with many laughs to be had. Imagine a roller coaster that runs entirely through a kaleidoscope tunnel. I got that feeling as I read.
Recommendation: If you regularly use the code 'LOL' in your Instant Message or ICQ box about concepts bigger than Friends or a 40-year-old Peanuts reprint, then read this book. If, on the other hand, you have ever been told you have no sense of humor or if you often hear the words "You just don't get it," then stay far, far away before you get caught up trying to figure out why "Effekt" is spelled with a K.