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Customer Review

on 24 October 2013
This is a cracking collection of short stories from Michael Zealey. He writes with an unusual mix of compassion and savagery for his assortment of misfit characters and throws us straight into their (very different) worlds so instantly and expertly that we are thoroughly immersed by the first page. Zealey escorts us across his wide range of settings(Vegas, Paris, the Congo, Hackney, Cornwall, Hampstead Heath... Outer space!) with consummate ease. His characters are not easy to sympathise with as they are never heroic, mostly selfish, sometimes thoroughly corrupt. However, they all speak truth and it is humbling to see oneself in many of them, if not their nightmarish scenarios (God forbid). Apart from all this, Zealey is a great storyteller and has a fantastic ability to misdirect the reader and bring in a satisfying (if grim) twist at the end of many of his vignettes.

My personal favourites are: 'The God-Pod' because it's a high-concept story which is well-executed and doesn't skimp on characterisation - a rare find; 'Djinn & Tonic' because it's a nice little slice of magic realism; 'Pushing Milgram's Button' because it really wrongfooted me; 'The Decision of Dr Congo', 'The Dolphin Dalai' and 'The Publisher' as they are really moving and a little redemptive. The stand-out 'track' for me was the Beckett-themed 'Waiting for Gordo' which brought a tear to my eye and made me do that thing when you put the book down a second to reflect on the whole of your life. This is what writing and reading are about, isn't it?

Caveat: Many of the stories are expletive-drenched and one story in particular ('Ex-Stacy') is downright foul, living up to the 'gag reflex' warning on the back cover. Even Will Self would blanch...
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