on 9 June 2014
I’m going to start at the end of this book. Nowhere other than at the very end of this book is it mentioned that all proceeds from this book go to the Marfan Foundation. If you don’t know what Marfan’s Syndrome is go have a look. It is a worthwhile cause and makes this book a guilt free purchase.
Jumping back to the beginning I do like the cover. It is clean, simple and most importantly I knew what type of book I was going to be reading. I knew I was going to enjoy this book by looking at the list of authors. Any collection that includes Patti Abbott and K.A. Laity is going to be good read.
At first glance the title of this collection is a little odd as noir stories are normally about outsiders, right? There are however outside of even those circles. Those quirky bit-part characters hovering on the outside that we barely notice, those are the characters these stories are about.
At times this collection was a bleak and uncomfortable read but there was just enough hope and justice to keep the reader smiling. These stories were fascinating and unusual. That was due to the characters. If you are looking for something different and refreshing then the characters herein will ignite your imagination.
Exiles starts with an essay, a personal reflection on feelings of isolation abroad – a theme which is echoed throughout the anthology. It’s not the most attention-grabbing preamble, to be honest; the first fiction which follows, ‘Eating The Dream’ would have made a much more compelling opening salvo. This story deftly weaves an ancient mythological monster into the modern environment, with adroit observations on human society, like how people don’t care as much for their livers as they should (an important concern when you perceive people as ‘dinner’!)
One of the delights with this anthology is that it abruptly changes pace, style and setting with each new story. One moment you’re in the company of the supernatural: legends thought long dead which still stalk the modern world in isolated secrecy, and the next you’re grounded in cold, hard and bittersweet reality as a naive traveller comes an all too human cropper in a foreign land. Some of the writers seem to have drawn extensively on personal experience to relate the overwhelming confusion and cultural misperceptions of a tired mind in a strange situation.
Some of the most entertaining stories are the fantastical ‘what if?’ tales. These are delightful moments where sadness and loneliness are transformed into wonder (as in We Are All Special Cases), or where the unreal is barely defined and hard to grasp. That’s the case with the surreal neo-noir of ‘Agent Ramiel Gets The Call’ where something semi-seen lurks in the psychological shadows.
But some of the most chilling tales are the real-world insights when a strange location and stressful circumstances reveal the gulf between couples or friends, when we find strangers where there should be someone familiar. There are also poignant moments where exiles reach out from their isolation to try to make contact with the rest of the world, chillingly less than successful in some cases…
Inevitably, a couple of the stories didn’t ring my bells – but this is an extensive anthology, not a whistlestop tour. Exiles allows many different voices to express their interpretation of the theme, and I’d say that I enjoyed at least 20 of them. Exiles is a substantial collection, one offering an array of entertainment and thought-provoking concepts. It’s well edited, too, with very few of the typos and typesetting errors that abound in so many ebooks.
At the end of this anthology it’s worth going back to the beginning. The introduction speaks the ultimate truth: no matter how close you come in life to any other person, in truth we are all isolated. Alone. Exiles in our own existence.