I first read this collection of short stories a while ago and had been meaning to do a review of it for some time. But in a way, I’m glad I waited because it’s meant that I ended up re-reading the collection in full – and there were a number of stories that I got more out of on the second (or even third) reading.
Anyway, the first thing to say about this collection is that, although it’s subtitled “Weird Shorts”, all the stories are written in a very accessible way – so don’t assume that “weird” equates to “wilfully obscure” or “kind of hard going.” For example, I found that I could readily identify with - or at least empathise with - most of the protagonists; the weirdness is more about the situations that they find themselves in. These range from a couple who respond to an ad offering the chance to spend several weeks in a nuclear fallout shelter (“Bunker Test”) to a man who wakes up in a room that is entirely white (and yes, you guessed it, that one is called “White Room”).
On my first read, these were the two stories that I found most striking and effective – and a number of other pieces mine a similarly dark seam of people battling with their own personal hell or some form of wider, apocalyptic event. But as I say, on the second read, I was more taken with some of the stories which had made less of an immediate impression on me the first time around. These included “Stairs”, which deals sympathetically with anxiety and depression, “The Protector”, which is more satirical in flavour and “Only the Good”, about what the world would be like if all “the bad” was taken out (would we actually like it? And who gets to decide what’s good and bad anyway?). Second time around, these stories got under my skin and made me think about things more than the ones I thought I liked best at first.
So to sum up, a great collection of shorts that definitely repays more than one reading – and at the risk of boring everyone by repeating a point I've made before, it’s further evidence that short stories can be just as satisfying, in their way, as longer work (it’s often just a different experience, where instead of feeling “full up” afterwards, the story is more of a jumping off point, prompting you to speculate as to what might happen to the characters after the point where the story ends or how the world of the story came about in the first place).
“Blue Tent” by the same author is also worth a read –it’s more of a long short story/novella, but explores some of the same dystopian territory that features in some of these shorts. It’s not free – but at $0.99 (at the time of writing), purchasing it is unlikely to cripple you financially.
At the time of this review, "Day Gazing" was available free of charge from Smashwords. You can read the author’s Smashwords interview here and there’s also an interview with her on Tom Lichtenberg’s blog, Pigeon Weather Productions.
Posted by Paul Samael. Posted In : Book reviews