Review by powderblue -- Illustrated Short Fiction of Wil...

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Latest Review: Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 by William H. Coles

Review by powderblue -- Illustrated Short Fiction of Wil...

Post by powderblue »

[Following is a volunteer review of "Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016" by William H. Coles.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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"A short story is a different thing altogether: a short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger." Stephen King said that, probably in his essay on horror fiction Danse Macabre, to explain how novels are more like a full-blown relationship, in which we get to "live" with the characters for a long time and, therefore, we get to know them well. A short story, however, just gives us a glimpse, a fleeting moment in someone's life. We never really get to know the characters too well, just have a brief moment. Like a kiss in the dark from a stranger.

The short story is a genre I personally enjoy a lot, precisely because of what Mr. King says: the joy of a moment of magic, a small vignette in someone's life, a strange, interesting or important anecdote about an event. And, because of the format itself, short stories are usually more concerned with either anecdote or mood than with character, and that suits me just fine.

Strangely enough, I found myself thinking about that quote above a lot while reading William H. Coles's Illustrated Short Fiction, precisely because they seem to work in the opposite way: the anecdotes themselves are always less important than the characters we are presented with.

My initial reaction, upon reading the first story, called "The Gift", was of slight rejection, to be honest. It's a peculiar story because it covers a very long period in the life of the protagonists and, when I reached the end, there was no real sense of closure. It felt as if the story could have ended at any other moment. But then I closed the book, went to do a few things and, hours later, I found myself thinking about those wonderful characters. Somehow, they had stayed with me. And that was a strange and delightful feeling, as if the author had sneaked up on me and while I thought I was reading about some events, I ended up knowing and caring about some people.

The wonderful thing about this book is that this did not just happen with one story, or just a few of them. It's a constant throughout the collection. Some of the stories are more fleshed out, some are actually very good and would stand on their own even with less interesting characters. Some actually feel too short and a bit incomplete. But what we always have here is superb character development. The Stephen King quote is not only adequate but opportune here: he is one of my favorite writers mostly because of how brilliantly he creates and presents characters to us. But King takes his time (and words) to flesh them out. Mr. Coles manages to create complex, deep and unforgettable characters in remarkable short time, and he does it in such a crafty way, with such elegant prose that, even when, after reading a few stories, you get a feel for how he does it, it is still effective and an utter pleasure to experience it.

Characters never exist in a vacuum, though, and the reason they are so memorable is that the relationships among them are drawn with a lot of honesty, insight and an unflinching look, even at awkward and strange moments. So is the author's take on the subject matters he deals with, which are varied and encompass different historical periods, places and socioeconomic groups. It doesn't matter if the story is, ultimately, uplifting and joyful, or if it's sad, gruesome or bleak: Coles will stay with the characters and follow them along, showing us what they do, feel and think. We may not always like what we see, and we may find ourselves mentally arguing with them. But, after all, what better feeling is there than that?

The book is "illustrated" for two reasons, I presume. On the one hand, there are always one or two illustrations accompanying the stories. I found some of them beautiful and a few a perfect image for what the stories represented. There are also two stories that are also narrated in comic form. I did not enjoy the format at all, and I thought it took away from both stories or characters.

Still, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. It is a superb collection of stories and I would recommend it, not only to anyone who likes short stories, but to anyone who likes spending a bit of time with interesting, realistic and unforgettable characters.

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016
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Post by Rafaella Michailidou »

Thank you for your wonderful review, I also think this collection is a manifest of the art of short stories.
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Post by Laura Ungureanu »

You gave this book a beautiful meaning that I wished I saw when I read it myself. Congrats on this wonderful review!
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Post by Nerea »

The book is beautifully summarised and analyzed in your review. I've read some of Cole's books and they are incredible. I'll try this one and enjoy as you did. Awesome review.
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Post by Willy 1 »

You did such a good job reviewing this book with lots of different stories. But I think my favourite will be The Gift. Good review.
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Post by ma_mon28 »

Interesting book! You have a very detailed review.
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Post by Olaoluwa_oso »

Though it contained lots of short stories, you did a good review job on this book. Nice!!
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Post by ma_mon28 »

Nice review with this book of many stories. You excerpt well the highlights of the book that gives a summary of what the book will be.
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Post by Cleis »

I'm a big fan of short stories, and I completely agree with your analysis of what short stories offer to readers. I'm surprised to hear this turns the usual "format" on its head. I think comics absolutely have a place in story telling, but I may also have found it off-putting to have a mesh of traditional written story and comics. Thanks for your review!
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Post by IamShing »

So much pointers both good and bad. I aprreciatr your effort..thank you
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Post by ayomie »

Thanks for a concise review. I hope i'm able to find time for this book.
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Post by Aniza Butt »

You seem to love this book a lot. I have read another book from this author and that was really amazing, I was desperate to read the next book in that series. Hope this one would be that amazing. Thank you for a detailed review powderblue.
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Post by Stephanie Elizabeth »

Well-written review! The quote that you included is very thought-provoking.

It is too bad that you didn't get the closure you were expecting in one of the stories. When that happens to me, I try to convince myself that the ending I had created in my head was the real ending.
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Post by Diana Lowery »

I like how you personalized your experience by describing how you walked away from the book to do something else, and then had a revelation about the character. Coles must be a gifted writer.
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Post by CharlizeGwapa »

Short stories are more appealing to me since they contain straightforward information. Love your review.
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