4 out of 4 stars
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A Second, Less Capable, Head And Other Rogue Stories is a collection of tales delving into the troubled minds of degenerates. You are swept along into the lives of schizophrenics, drug addicts, vagabonds, tiny aliens, stalkers, and much more as you engross yourself in the dark stories.
The beginning story where the book takes its name is a kick-start into the bizarre world, a world which gets stranger as you read on. A Second, Less Capable Head tells the tale of Virgil Ploughright, a plumber finding it hard to get work. He awakes one morning to find a lump on his neck. When he goes to the doctor to get it checked and removed he is told that this will not be allowed because it would be seen as murder. It turns out that he really is growing a second head alongside his own. As the head grows, and his girlfriend Trixie gets more and more attached to it, Virgil finds himself growing fiercely frustrated. It turns out that Virgil is not unique and there are many people all over the country sprouting second heads. As demonstrations and political explanations clash in the world around him, Virgil is only interested in getting away from 'Alf'. When the opportunity arises for him to finally get rid of 'Alf' he leaps at the chance. However, the opportunity will not turn out to be the relief he was hoping for.
This is just one of the many stories that make up A Second, Less Capable, Head And Other Rogue Stories. As you turn the pages you will learn about the art of flashing; the growing of mutant soldiers; the vengeance of a schizophrenic; the hallucinations of a drug addict, and much more.
I thought that A Second, Less Capable, Head And Other Rogue Stories by James Hanna was utterly fantastic. The writing style for each story changes to adapt to the surroundings and circumstances. Although some of the stories are very short, each is rich with strong characters, and they all draw you in. The pages are filled with dark humour and beautiful descriptions. Hanna draws expertly on his experience as a probation officer to give realistic characters in bizarre and twisting tales. Each story is unusual and immensely enjoyable leaving you wanting to read the next.
My favourite story, 'Hunny Bunny', tells the tale of a lesbian who has fallen in love. As the tale progresses you are completely on her side. You want her 'Hunny Bunny' to come to her and for them to live a happy life together. It is only as you reach the ending that you realise you have been reading from the point of view of a stalker. It was so interesting to be engrossed in this world, and it really opened my eyes to how 'normal' people with afflictions like this can come across. To be able to read from the point of view of many different types of people carrying out illegal and illicit actions was informative and intriguing. I take my hat off to Hanna who brought me into this world with grace, and gave me a view of some devilish miscreants with style and dignity.
Quotes and references to Nietzsche occur throughout the stories. The fact that Hanna draws so much from Nietzsche in the tales implies to me that he is very affected by his work. The quote "If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you" was used several times in different stories. This is obviously an important quote for Hanna. It shows how his career as a probation officer has lead him to have a more detailed insight into the minds of criminals, minds that most people have no hope or want to understand. I believe this quote shows that if you spend enough time and energy on something you will absorb some of its being back into you. The Nietzsche quote is seen to have negative connotations, especially as it follows: "He who fights monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster". The negative connotations the quote holds are perfectly fitted into this collection of short stories about criminals and down-and-outs, emphasising the unique view point that Hanna holds into the human psyche.
Without hesitation I award this book 4 out of 4 stars. The characters are witty and desperate, the stories weird and thought-provoking, and the writing style is amazing. The vocabulary Hanna uses is great, and I learnt several new words reading through the tales. I would recommend this book to a wide range of people who read different genres. It is a great book to pick up and put down as you do not need to read all of the stories at once. I would discourage young readers because of the content and some disturbing scenes. However, for everyone else, you should get a copy and throw yourself into the dark world.
A Second, Less Capable Head
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