Review by David Riley
This is the first kindle book I have actually bought to download (all the rest have been free). It is also the first ebook published by Karoshi Books, whose purpose is to bring out new works by new and unpublished authors, a splendid idea which has been lucky in coming across a writer of exceptional talent.
The subtitle, Tales of the Weird, is acutely accurate. Although some horrendous things happen in several of these tales, they are not horror stories. Although the supernatural occurs in some strange forms in some of them, neither are they tales of the supernatural. Nor SF, though there are vaguely science fictional elements here and there. What is universal to all of them is a clean, distinctive writing style, which keeps a brisk, no nonsense pace throughout. If there are any influences in these stories they are, as Michel Perry puts it in his introduction, those of Eastern Europe, principally Kafka.
There are six stories in this collection: ‘The Judge’, ‘Glory and Splendour’, ‘Deep Stitches’, ‘Hitting Targets’, ‘Life Beggar’, and ‘The Lotus Device’.
‘The Judge’ is about a mechanical computer which has been entrusted with acting as judge, jury and executioner-cum-inflicter of maiming in a steam punk present day, which may not be as infallible as people are instilled to believe.
‘Glory and Splendour’ is a tale of plague, decay and self deception, with a fairy-tale like red paint whose magical quality is to make the ugly look beautiful.
‘Deep Stitches’ is another alternative science story, in which psychology utilises an insectoid version of nano-technology to change people’s memories and sense of self.
An unscrupulous estate agent in ‘Hitting Targets’ comes up against an insane gamer turned serial killer, the nearest any of these stories comes to straight horror, combing extreme violence with the darkest of dark humour. In ‘Life Beggar’, approaching the end of an unfulfilled life, the protagonist visits a strange, maybe mystical pedlar who sells him a drink which enables him, on touching anyone, to experience their lives in a flash.
The protagonist of ‘The Lotus Device’, on the other hand, has a job he hates and a boring life.
From possibly the same pedlar as in ‘Life Beggar’, he obtains a watch that allows him to forget and skip those hours of the day he doesn’t want to remember, leaving only the highlights, with unforeseen, nightmarish results.
Satisfyingly varied, with plots whose threads are unpredictable, this is an impressively original debut collection from a writer I am sure we’ll see more of in the future.