...And they make you think. That's the real thrill of this collection. Each piece of writing engages the old grey matter on many levels, so whilst you're reading through the A-B of the story itself, additional layers of meaning start to bubble and froth from deep down in your head. Each story, populated by credible people in real relationships, feels as though it has been shaped by a kind of dark matter of 'inner space' as much as the visible stuff of the things around us. That sounds heavy, but it's the only way I can describe the multi-textured feel of this collection in a manner that can do it justice. It also means that these stories offer further rewards when read a second time round.
..... Whilst reading through the collection I was reminded more than once of the short stories of J.G.Ballard, a real hero of mine who could do no wrong with anything he wrote. There are many similarities, most obviously so in the opening story 'Moon Flu' and more subtly in some of the themes which permeate the others. Importantly though there are many differences, and it's these which go towards establishing Mr Stanger as a writer with his own definitive and unique voice. What I'm saying is, if you like the short stories of J.G.Ballard, then you will certainly enjoy the tales told in 'Moondust Memories'. But don't expect them to be Ballard-like clones; each tale is refreshingly unique and astonishingly original in its own right.
There are some real gems in here. I have my favourites and one of them is 'The English Dead'; a challenging story which describes a future expedition to Everest in order to discover what really happened during the ill-fated British Mount Everest Expedition of 1924. The speculative- or science-fiction approach to this subject allows a wonderfully unique take impossible to achieve in non-genre fiction, and the whole thing is made utterly credible by Stanger's effortless descriptions of the harsh environment and his characters' struggles within it. At one point I genuinely felt the nausea of vertigo whilst reading and no, I wasn't up a mountain at the time.
All of which brings me to Stanger's prose, which is lyrical and gentle in a no-nonsense kind of way. The writing isn't flashy or 'clever', instead it does what it's supposed to: it engages the story quickly and the reader so effortlessly that it almost seems to have written itself. This is no mean feat, and it shows that Stanger is a professional at his craft.
In summary, 'Moondust Memories' is a rewarding read in the best possible way. A wonderful collection of thought-provoking and challenging stories that you will enjoy whether you're a fan of sci-fi or not. ‘Touching Distance’ is probably my most favourite story of the collection but I won’t spoil that here, just go read it and you’ll see why. ‘Star in a Glass’, ‘String-Driven Thing’ and the utterly gorgeous ‘Stars in Her Eyes’, not to mention ‘Slices of Life’, are all worth the ticket price alone. Each one of those stories is worth five stars individually, and each makes 'Moondust memories' as a whole much more worthy of its collective five stars than most of the factory pap churned out year after year by many of the populist authors at the top of the bestseller list.
Go on – click to buy. I promise you won’t regret it!