on 4 November 2007
Rob Shearman is probably best known for writing the Dr Who episode Dalek - the re-introduction of these iconic bad guys in the Christopher Eccleston series - and the one that touched all our hearts, as we saw the inner creature inside the metal casing and it connected with Rose (Billie Piper) in a way which made many viewers cry.
But Rob has also written stage plays, radio plays, audio dramas and many more things besides. Tiny Deaths, though, is his first collection of short stories and showcases his work in a different way.
It is hard to pigeonhole these stories into one genre, but if I had to, I would say science-fiction but with a dollop of fantasy, some horror and a huge portion of wit and humour.
Rob Shearman has an amazing mind and imagination. He takes the most ordinary of situations and suddenly does a volte face and approaches it from a most unusual angle. One example - childbirth. We all know what this is; it's an every day thing. Yes, but giving birth to FURNITURE? Exactly. And not just any old furniture - oh no, we're talking high-class antiques.
So you see what I mean!
The theme running through this collection is death - in many varied ways - reincarnation, Hell, rejection, the end of many things. But that does in no way make Tiny Deaths a sombre read. Shearman has a wonderful way of bringing out the quirkiness of human actions and amongst the most tragic of tales will be these little gems that make you laugh or smile - or wish you had thought of it first!
Each story is also very thought-provoking and can be interpreted on several levels. This is clever writing - but not for the sake of it. This is not a collection of stories saying "Hey! Look at me! I'm so talented!" - more a collection of stories saying "Erm, I'm quite nice really - or at least, I hope I am..."
Read this book - but slowly. Read it, think about it, smile to yourself. Relish each story. It's well worth it.
on 16 March 2009
Warmly familiar and eerily discomposing, like creeping into a snug bed only to find your hot water bottle's been filled with blood... Though the publishing world is doing its damnedest to make the short-story collection extinct, 'Tiny Deaths' is a wry little gem and shows exactly why the book-buying public mustn't allow that to happen.
With its tales of Hitler's dog, a reincarnating Jesus, and the woman who gives birth to a teapot, this book can take its place in the fine tradition of European and Latin American fanatastical fiction. In tone, it recalls M.R. James or Roald Dahl, by way of Kurt Vonnegut.
'Tiny Deaths' - gigantically enjoyable. Heartily recommended.
I'll freely admit, I bought this because Rob Shearman has written for Doctor Who (the Dalek episode and a number of audio plays), rather than his apparently fine work as a playwright.
At any rate, this collection of short stories has a very British feel to it, that reminds me of Douglas Adams crossed with Roald Dahl. In one story a man goes to hell and shares his cell with a dog owned by a very evil person. In another everyone is made aware of the day of their death, except one man, and that man then finds himself in high demand. It's slightly tales of the unexpected, but with the depressed worldview of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Much of it is funny, but always in a poignant, bittersweet way. People are often unhappy in their lives and very human in the appalling ways they treat people they are supposed to love.
Frankly, Shearman's versatility is brilliant. I wait with bated breath for his next collection, novel, whatever.
on 6 September 2013
I was not relishing reading some short stories to be honest but the two I have read from this book are fresh, thought-provoking, comical and memorable. In one a tv set starts to bleed and in another God or whoever is 'up there' writes to everyone to tell them when they will die and how. See what I mean?
on 12 November 2007
Robert Shearman sets a new standard for "black humour". His tales are, by turns, funny and moving with a side serving of surreal. Read one of these stories and it will get you thinking. Buy this book and treat yourself to an unusual, and yet rewarding, indulgence.
on 22 July 2008
An impressive collection of short stories, most of which have a fantasy element and quite a few have ingenious plots. On the back cover Martin Jarvis compares Robert Shearman to Douglas Adams. Where the two writers come closest is that their stories are funny on the surface but ultimately melancholic in spirit. In past he wrote an audio Doctor Who story for Big Finish called "Deadline", about an elderly writer flitting between reality and a SF world of his imagination. A prose version of that would fit in very snugly with the theme of this book -mortality - often literal but sometimes metaphorical. Many of his characters are afflicted not so much by dramatic flaws as much as grinding mediocrity. Even in the face of extraordinary events, these people remain inherently grounded in their own internal worlds and are rarely transformed. If you've heard some of his Radio 4 plays you'll recognise the wit and the clever, ruthless plots. His writing style is extremely readable. These are rarely `twist' stories, they read more like modern fables.
Favourites on mine include "Mortal Coil" One day, everyone on Earth receives a letter from some kind of higher authority telling them exactly how and when they are going to die. Everyone that is, except Harry who finds life in this new world difficult, until a man turns up on his doorstep with a surprising request. A brilliant portrayal of mad but very human logic.
Another is "Perfect", about Tanya who works hard at being the perfect little girl for her mum and dad, but can't work out the real reason behind an unexpected trip to the seaside.
In "Stuff We Leave Behind", the world of an unsentimental woman is rocked when she discovers a chest of her late husband's bric a brac. An excellent creepy tale of a slightly normal event spiralling into a nightmare.
Then there's "No Looking Back" where the hero has spent his life waiting to feel a big emotion, to have some kind of confirmation that would make his life make sense. Even when his bride dies at their wedding reception, he's disappointed that his first thought is whether he can get a refund on the honeymoon. But surely a quest to the Land of the Dead to win back his wife from Pluto would prove that he does really feel love? Both funny and ultimately very sad
I'm not usually a reader of anthology books but this has been a real revelation. Well recommended.
on 1 October 2008
It's hard to believe this could possibly be the first (non-Who) book by Rob who is best known as a writer on Doctor Who, and it's hard to tell as much as I would like to about these beautifully-written stories without giving away some wonderful surprises. Think, if you can, of Michel Faber crossed with Ray Bradbury but still completely fresh and individual.
The 14 stories in the book are all connected by death, either in the shape we best know it or as an allegory for the many other forms of loss and letting go Shearman's characters confront. Every story is a little gem and to pick out a shortlist of favourites is to be unfair to the stories not listed, suffice to say that each one is touched with its own little bit of magic. What makes the book so absorbing is that even when characters are confronted by amazing circumstances their reactions are wholly human. This is a warm, thoughtful and insightful book; a lump-in-the-throat book; a laugh out loud book. It is a book you will want to read again and again. It is also a book that you will want to be able to tell all your friends that you spotted 'before it was so well-known' because, if there's any justice in the world, this is a writer who is going to be very big indeed.Tiny Deaths
on 27 July 2015
Tiny Deaths was the first short story collection released by Rob Shearman, a man with an exceptional imagination who has previously written for Dr Who.
Tiny Deaths looks at death in a number of odd and twisted ways which deserve your closest attention. The stories are linked by their theme but are incredibly diverse and different.
The stories vary significantly, some dwell on lost love, other stories on reincarnation as an ashtray or being forced to live with Hitlers dog. These are a small cross section of the stories and no review could truly do them justice. Shearman writes with humour, energy and irreverence, his writing veers from absurd and abstract to heart achingly tender with ease.
The title story follows Jesus Christ as he dies for our sins again and again, in a twisted take on ‘Groundhog Day’ as his story evolves, he wonders what the heck he is doing and begins to take on the personality traits of our culture, becoming more materialistic, selfish and self-absorbed.
I would thoroughly recommend this collection to anyone who appreciates good writing, I would readily admit the stories scared me, made me laugh out loud, made me cry and have profoundly affected me. This is a modern classic.
I love this book and have re-read it three times, I think the writing is exceptional, the stories are some of the best I’ve read and the book is a treasure and something I would recommend whole-heartedly.
on 28 November 2008
What's remarkable about this accomplished and striking story collection is an anarchic imagination - a woman gives birth to furniture, the powers that be decide to take our knowledge of our mortality to its logical conclusion, a woman dies several times over, once for each of her children - combined most unusually with a touching humanity. Every crazy thing that happens here is believable, every character touches you in some way, because they come to you through Robert Shearman's affectionate understanding and his wry, sometimes comic voice.
on 8 February 2009
Tiny Deaths is a collection of extreme surreal situations narrated in everyday voices by the most ordinary narrators, yet amongst the black humour and mad twists, there is a touching exploration of the way we are. Once you open the cover, be prepared to be shaken up.You might be forgiven for thinking this writer is insane but I have seen Shearman read and he appears to be quite normal. Want a new take on life? Read Tiny Deaths.