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28 Far Cries Kindle Edition
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I'm not entirely unfamiliar with Mr. Nash's work, as I have been involved in countless discussion threads with him over the past year; however, this was my first real reading of his work.
The stories in 28 Far Cries are unrelated in theme and characters, and this makes the collection a good sample of Mr. Nash's work. There are some collections where the diversity of themes and subjects make the collection feel disjointed, nevertheless, this was not the case here.
That being said, I spent the past three days contemplating how to review 28 Far Cries. I must admit that, as a reader, I was a little torn as to how I should rate it. The stories are easy to read, and the text is well edited, so there was no problem there. Yet, I found myself contemplating the literary worth of the stories, and their value as stories.
Mr. Nash created tales without a beginning or an end. Tales that come out of nowhere, allow the reader a glimpse of space and time, and depart. This, for me, was a new reading experience. I can only consider that, unlike most authors who want the reader to consider a situation, a character, or a setting, Mr. Nash explores a thought and the language appropriate for that thought.
It is the language itself, which makes these stories worth reading, as Mr. Nash creates feelings through words. At first, from the traditional storytelling perspective, I was leaning towards a three-star rating. But the longer I thought about it, the more I recognized that these stories are worth more, for the author severed traditions and embarked on his own, uncompromising quest. And while some of the stories in this collection did not speak to me personally, I must admire the artist's effort and attitude.
My favourites were varied:
Road To Nowhere, Cop Aesthetic, Nocebo, Geiger Countering and the very chilling Skin Bar. Hard to pick a favourite. All written with skill. Well worth a look at.
No. That's close but not quite right.
This book is like a display case filled with 28 finely crafted, exquisitely detailed miniature sculptures. You have to pick each one up in turn, examine it on its own while lying on a hammock for a while, before returning to the case to pick up another. After reading one or two of these pieces, I decided to take my sweet time with this collection, and I'm glad I did. You could read this in an afternoon, I suppose, but I wouldn't recommend it. These flash fiction pieces have drag. (And somehow I mean drag as in the longitudinal retarding force exerted by air or other fluid surrounding a moving object.) There are little gnarly bits sticking out of these stories that you should allow to snag your attention. You should take some pleasure in examining the embedded hooks. You can tell the author has worked and reworked these pieces, grabbing different disparate bits over time and mashing them into place, working them in, rubbing and rearranging until they work.
Nash is playing with language here. That seems to be his main focus. He likes obscure and archaic words, and especially words or phrases with double or triple meanings. It was fun to see how he'd mash ideas together, reconcile juxtapositions, flog a pun to death, turn concepts inside out, and meditate on a peculiar concept until it nearly breaks under his scrutiny. In addition to inspecting the meaning of words, Nash is also obviously obsessively concerned with the sounds we make when we speak them. There is a rough rhythm to these pieces, a lot of hard consonant sounds that pop and crack and jolt and jar as you go.
This collection isn't for everyone. Many of the pieces aren't proper stories. Many are more like inspections of objects and concepts at a microscopic level. Yes, you will find stories in this thing, but there are plenty of chunks of writing therein that could just as easily be labeled anti-story. If you think you might like that sort of thing, give this a go. I had fun reading it. But, admittedly, it was less the pleasure one usually associates with reading and more the kind of fun one has while solving puzzles.
Marc Nash is obviously a talented author who is also something of a word artist. In fact, that's the closest analogy I can make: I feel as though I've been to a prestigious exhibition of modern art paintings by a new artist and cannot comprehend much of the work.
His careful interplay of words and images are often first-rate; and the stories DO have points, although sometimes as a reader you must hunt for them. They all jump right into a narrative, usually fully underway, leaving you feeling as though you just barely jumped onto the trailing car of a fast train, pulling out of a dark station without a clear destination in mind.
And some of the stories take place seemingly at the cellular level, where you must hack your way through jungles of microbes and nanobots to find the story's true meaning.
But I am convinced the author isn't much interested in whether the reader can fully comprehend each piece. Rather, again, like a good -- and possibly great -- artist, he has penned his stories with guile and a liberal smattering of arcane and truly unusual words and phrases as though he would be delighted to know his readers were having to re-read entire long passages to uncover the hidden meaning embedded therein.
I rather liked "The Road to Nowhere," which chronicles the efforts of an unnamed people trying to figure out where a road goes. In the end, however, they stop exploring, afraid to see what lies beyond the seemingly endless horizon.
One phrase from that story, at the very end, is worth noting: "It kept them from wandering, from encountering the dark, unknown parts of themselves."
In "Cop Aesthetic," we seem to see two sides of a police officer, who begins the story by taking his daughter to a zoo, but ends by sitting across the table from a shackled, dangerous felon. The imagery evoked, regarding predatory animals, is chilling.
In "Still Ill," a man who has been posing as a silver-painted mechanical man, apparently in a large city, has developed a reaction -- possibly fatal -- to his silver body paint. Best line from that one: "My mind focused in on emptying itself, devoted to harnessing the body to its strict oversight. And yet behind my paralyzed husk, my mind is free to roam."
In "Type O Negative" the main -- and only -- character has been irradiated, subjecting her to bizarre speech patterns. At the end, she cries for help. But you can tell it's too late.
Wikipedia defines flash fiction as fiction of extreme brevity. Works can range from three hundred words to a thousand. The genre has a notable past, stretching apparently into prehistory, and practiced by no less than Walt Whitman. No wonder these stories sometimes seem closer to long poetry than prose.
As I said, this sort of fiction is new to me and, while I'm not sure everyone will appreciate what Marc Nash has written down for posterity, I am convinced that he puts a lot of thought into his craft, and I applaud him for his artistry.