4 out of 4 stars
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Illustrated Short Fiction of William H Coles 2000-2016 is a collection of 33 short stories, two graphic novels and one novella. The short stories come with illustrations done by six different artists that complement each story beautifully. It is an excellent compilation of literary fiction about characters from all walks of life facing one or other moral decision.
The main theme of the stories is one-of-a-kind characters facing serious problems in challenging settings. Very few of the stories have a definitive ending. The stories get to a certain point and then end, leaving the reader to draw conclusions or create endings. Another common thread is that the stories are mostly dark describing a world where human life is becoming more and more worthless as people walk around hurting each other - either with their words or physically.
What I like about this book is firstly that one does not have to read it in one sitting, something which I would anyway not recommend. Each story has a deep message to digest and time is required for reflection if you want to get the most out of this book. Secondly, the life, heart and soul of ordinary people are presented in a straightforward, uncluttered way. What people say and do are often more gripping and unforgettable than the most intricate plot. It forces the reader to look at people differently, and to realise that each one of us has a story.
The characters might not be likable or even interesting to some readers, but they are certainly believable. The stories are about people that are often overlooked or steered clear of. The reader gets a sense of looking into the hearts and souls of people they know or at the least, know about. A very good example is “The Cart Boy”, a story about a disabled boy assisting with carrying groceries or rounding up shopping carts around a parking lot. The reader is introduced to his home life, something very few of us even think about. In “Homunculus” we get the story of a tiny female dwarf in the circus. To many of us she is just an object of entertainment. But do we ever wonder what is dwelling in such a person’s heart and mind?
Many of the stories invite the reader to not only draw his/her own conclusion, but also question what their reaction would be if thrown into a similar situation. In “Dilemma” for instance, an attempted suicide leaves a surgeon’s son with irreparable damage. The physician-father has to decide whether saving the boy is cruel or an act of love, but…...the father refuses to wish his son had been more thorough, not leaving him with these decisions. In “Speaking of the Dead”, the reader is burdened with the idea of having to deliver an eulogy for someone they can barely tolerate while the family is grieving the loss of a loved one. In “The Activist” the question arises as to who will give a stillborn child, seen and thought of as a thing, some kind of burial, let alone a voice.
These are just a few examples of the kind of story to expect in this book.
I did not enjoy the graphic novels very much as the sketches are not particularly good. I prefer to use my imagination to see characters in my own way, based on a writer’s description.
I highly recommend the book to other readers. Just be aware that nearly all of the stories include graphic violence and/or sexual situations. While recommending the book, I want to add that, as a work of literature, multiple interpretations manifest and a deeper understanding of what has been written is required. I think that it could even help us all to better understand our fellow men. The writing appears to be professionally edited. Though I picked up typographical and formatting errors, these do not warrant, in my good conscience, a full star extracted from my final rating. I therefore give this book 4 out of 4 stars.
Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016
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