Thursday, January 05, 2012
book review: Unthology No.2 by various writers
Short story collections by a variety of writers should always provide a patchwork of reading experiences with the different voices and styles. Good collections manage to deliver that as well as provide some overall takeaway theme for the reader and here it is very much about encouraging the development of creative talent.
There are thirteen stories in this collection and some of the names are familiar, particularly Nick Sweeney who has had a book reviewed on this bvlog before. The idea of taking up-and-coming writers and providing them with a place to show off their wares is an admirable one and there are certainly a few stories here that will be referred back to in future years as the early days of solid literary careers.
In terms of the most memorable it is perhaps unfair to pick out a few among the thirteen but I particularly liked Differences in Lifts by Lander Hawes, The Swan King by Ashley Stokes, The Poets of Radial City by Paul A. Green and Nine Hundred and Ninety Something by Nick Sweeney.
Starting with the Sweeney first what this writer gives you is a great sense of location. Taking you to locations in Eastern Europe and Turkey is something that was a feature of Laikonik Express and he does it again here. A clever story about a group of criminals preying on unsuspecting tourists comes with a twist that will deliver a smile. But it is the way he describes another world that will stay with you.
Talking of different worlds the landscape described by Paul A. Green is one where poetry is seen as a way of underming authority and as the poets stage one great protest against the state the status quo is challenging in a way that perhaps you would not expect from the poetic form. But this is a different reality and one convincingly delivered.
There were times that reality seemed all to familar with the coming of age and bogeyman story written by Ashley Stokes. The Swan King is a figure maligned and wrongly blamed. Part Rear Window in the way the main characters watch from their flat and part To Kill A Mockingbird in the way a relatively harmless odd figure is turned into some sort of bogeyman this gets under your skin. Secrets come back to haunt those looking for the killer of a student and the desire to be popular, liked and loved is one that doesn't just haunt the Swan King.
The other story that I have perhaps unfairly highlighted from a great collection is something with a futuristic feel from Lander Hawes. It's a world where work, careers and keeping on the straight and narrow dominate but when one man finds little support for his complaints about the lifts he demonstrates just how much a seemingly petty issue means to him. Strange and disturbing in the sense that although clearly not set in our time and space the corporate nonsense it describes is something we can all relate to.
Overall this is a great showcase for up and coming writers and it gives you everything a short story collection should. Great writing, different styles and a chance to be shocked, saddened and entertained.