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17 May 2012

Volume three, published by The Fiction Desk, April 2012. softcover.

Reviewed by Steve Johnson.

This was a damn good anthology. All the stories were a great read, and it was clear all of the writers knew what they were doing. The editor’s also been smart enough to go for quality over quantity and produce a slimish volume of good writing, rather than a fat volume of work where about half is mediocre, and kudos to him for that, too many other editors can’t resist the quantity/mediocre, as if a big fat volume with half of it poor stories is somehow to be preferred by readers. Here’s one reader who doesn’t.

The title story was a strong piece on the effects of age, imagination, the spirit of place, and loving your family. It ended on a solid note that tied up the story perfectly. The Man of the House is one of the neatest ghost tales I’ve read in the last five years, while Rocket Man hit every button as well, a child in danger, end of life as we know it, and the need we have as humans to not die alone but in the company of those you love. Automatic Pilot is a brutal, knowledgeable, look at a family coming apart at the seams, it has real impact. Exocet is another ‘family’ story, three generations of males relating to each other, often not in harmony but doing their best for each other, even if they don’t always understand. The Pest I simply enjoyed. It’s a quietly wicked mystery story, the author understands people and their motivations and what will drive someone to extremes and she’s done an excellent job. I’d like to read more of ‘her village’ and its inhabitants.

Trevor Gets Shot is a very clever look at kids, how they function, their friendships, and how far they’ll go for each other. And how in all that there’s a stack of other motivations mixed in that they themselves may not even recognise. Blind is odd, the ostensible story is that of a man who’s quite by chance found that he can make a good living pretending to be blind. But the underlying themes are those of someone who has found empowerment and is abruptly deprived of it leaving him bereft of what made him visible to others. It’s a strong story that hits home in a lot of areas. The final tale, Faith, deals with three Russian cosmonauts, and uses a sort of magic realism. It’s a powerful story, right down to the last line and it was a good choice on which to end the anthology. The editor certainly knows how to attract good writers and how to select good work. Take a look at anything else The Fiction Desk is producing, if this anthology is an indication, it’ll be worth your time.











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