I'm a big fan of JG Ballard. His short stories captivate my imagination; a recognisable world that suddenly twists, normal people go off-course and get caught up in major terrorist plots, crime, and strange internal or future worlds. So I was pleasantly surprised on picking up this book that Adam Marek takes the reader into a realm that strikes resonances both thematically and stylistically with Ballard and other authors such as Paul Auster and Douglas Coupland.
The stories are addictive and instantly readable, the first is about a man who goes to buy a new pet for his girlfriend and enters a closed and suffocating world of the pet shop owner who measures his animals in litres, and prizes his 40-litre monkey beyond anything else. Another that had me laughing out-loud and genuinely crying was the bizarre yet somehow poignant tale of Brendan and Doris, and their extreme multiple birth (37 babies to be precise). All of the characters are recognisable, their traits, their thoughts, their flaws. It is the extraordinary circumstances in which they find themselves that bring the stories to life.
As I travel to work by train, this book was ideal - the stories last just long enough for the journey, or are perfect pre-sleep wind down. But what really got me is that they stay with you. I keep thinking about the man that tried to find his sub-conscious, or how the loss of one of the babies made such a mark on Brendan. I've read another book since and these stories are still there, filtering through and making me think about how we make sense of our selves in what can be a really strange world.
I'd recommend this book, it should be celebrated for being a really good collection of short stories. It's not about them being easier or quicker to read because they're short, they work like this - it's how they should be. That said, if Marek does write a novel it'd go straight on my Wish List.