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A Tiding Of Magpies Kindle Edition
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This author has the ability to make words dance off the page, spin around your head, and turn into star dust. Each page is magical. A real page turner. Sentences such as "she must have been responsible for dehydrating a lake's worth of water,, one plastic cup at a time" (see page 106), are pure brilliance. The themes included within the collection of stores covered everything imaginable from the darkside, dogs, danger, decisions, death and drama and so much more. I thoroughly enjoyed the sublime prose and even the bad language at points as purposeful prose to extend the tone. I loved the reference to sticklebricks; childhood, a throwback to a time gone by when simple pleasures appealed in play. Don't expect romance, but do expect your emotions to be challenged, tears to well in stories such as "Roadkill" and "The Infection", for example, and powerful content to challenge your intellect from start to finish of the book. After page 187, you are treated to Magpie moments and an interview, which ties up the whole package to perfection.
In the words of the children's rhyme, it is a Six for Gold for this collection. By the way, I am first in line awaiting for the full novel "Sick City Syndrome" by the same author. I'm booking out the shed with a "do not disturb sign" to read this one! I already know it is going to be a resounding success.
- ROADKILL is a creepy story about a family on a car journey where the younger brother starts counting the road kill on the road and a sinister gift is revealed. Although the ending is slightly telegraphed, the tension is well racked up and it lingered with me.
- SAILING BENEATH THE CITY follows an unnamed narrator as he navigates his skiff around an underground city, using drugs to erase memories he find too painful. It’s a sad story that also left me quite unsettled.
- IT’S ALWAYS THE END FOR SOMEONE is about a woman having to come to terms with her father’s impending death and trying to get in touch with her brother (an astronomer living in Chile) while strange weather events.
- BRUISED starts off innocently as a story about a woman who finds an unexplained bruise on her body but the marks escalate to a satisfying pay-off.
- THE INFECTION seems to be the chronicle of a survivor of a terrible inspection but there’s a neat twist at the end that’s genuinely chilling.
I don’t think that there are any duff stories in the collection but I have to say that the flash fiction stories (NOT ALONE and WAYMARKER in particular) didn’t work for me as well as the longer stories, but this is mainly due to my not being a fan of the form rather than Sutton’s craftsmanship. Ultimately there’s a lot of skill on display here and I was surprised to discover how many of the stories had not been previously published as they are of good quality. Based on this, I’m really looking forward to reading Sutton’s debut novel as the writing here promises good things.
The collection takes in the full scope of speculative fiction, from fairy tales (“Swan, Wild”, the story of a prince cursed with a swan’s wing and his quest for revenge) to horror (the dark secret in the attic in closing story “Latitude”, and shock opener “Roadkill”), to pure SF (“The Soft Spiral of a Collapsing Orbit”). The stories range in length; some are flash fiction, but I found the longer stories worked better to convey the many ideas the author is trying to put across – Pete Sutton is a charismatic and complicated writer, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with a novel.
Highlights for me – “Sailing Beneath the City”, which was a new one for me, a fantasy of a lost soul who consumes his own memories because they are too painful to bear, and which felt like it could and should be part of a much larger world that I wanted to explore. The previously mentioned and deliciously creepy-twisty “Latitude”, and “Thunder and Magpies”, a revenge story that doesn’t lose any impact from repeated telling.
One small note of frustration, there were a number of small but irritating errors in punctuation and odd formatting errors like random changes of font in the contents page, so perhaps the publishers need to look into fixing that for future editions of the book. That was annoying, but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book particularly. Recommended for those who like their stories to be a bit more than just black and white…
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