3 out of 4 stars
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The title of the present collection, Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016, is quite explanatory. This book brings together more than thirty short stories written by William H. Coles in sixteen years. One or more images illustrate the stories at the beginning, and two graphic novels complete the set. Even though I cannot summarize the plot of each story, I can tell that they present important themes and then develop them consistently.
Coles always reveals his preference for profound and often controversial themes in his works. I read some of his novels, but this is the first time I read his short fiction. I found here the same commitment of his longer works. Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles tells stories about love, diversity, death, guilt, and punishment – only to mention a few themes. Coles develops these themes with clarity, and at the end of each story, you have a satisfying epilogue and something on which you should reflect. I especially like the unexpected conclusion and paradox of “The Wreck of the Amtrak’s Silver Service.” I also appreciate the bittersweet ending of “The Gift,” where we finally understand why Agnes, Catherine’s bigot, tough mother, behaved as she did.
I also like the characterization of the characters. The way in which Coles portrays them makes them unique and similar to real persons. Even minor characters as the previously mentioned Agnes have precise features that make them, if not agreeable, at least interesting and fully rounded. However, the protagonists of the stories have the lion’s share. They are vibrant, complex characters whose problems you understand, as in the case of John Hampton, the protagonist of “Speaking of the Dead.” He has to make the eulogy at his wife’s funeral and has to think about what he would like to say. His problem is that he does not love her anymore and does not know what to do.
As this book is entitled Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles, at the end of my review is not inappropriate for me to consider the pictures. They are charming, colorful images that embellish the stories. However, in two cases (“Homunculus” and “Reddog”), they are the stories. The first graphic novel presents vivid, colorful illustrations that make the atmosphere intense. The second is in black and white, and the effect is that it appears more formal.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. Even though Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles is an outstanding collection, I found many typographical errors while I was reading. This is the only reason why I lower my rating, which otherwise would have been 4 stars. I recommend this book to every reader who likes short fiction, and who is fascinated by the endless resources of their small but inspiring universe.
Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016
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