3 out of 4 stars
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A collection that packs various stories with various impacts, like a boxer’s combination of light punches and heavy blows. That is William H. Coles’ Illustrated Short Fiction.
The title might sound a bit bland for others, maybe effortless, maybe too stripped down, or even straightforward. But like all collection of short stories it has a lot to offer. Both good and bad.
Offer number one: the whole book gives you this strange Twilight Zone feel without the supernatural elements, particularly the story Speaking Of The Dead. Definitely far from being supernatural or mystery but it really resembles Twilight Zone and I can’t pinpoint what or why. Majority of the stories in this book gives the similar thrill of the pace of “Closing Time”, one of Neil Gaiman’s shorts.
Offer number two: the stories in this book tackles obscure reality. It deals with guilt, passion, sympathy, compassion, self-doubt, and coming of age. It also depicts events that happened, is happening, and can happen in life. Others might even call it horrors of reality. But aside from the unsettling stories, there are a couple ones that will warm your heart by the end. Will make you think what really is important in life.
Offer number three: I love how the author mixed and molded just enough exaggeration while still making it believable and close to reality. I think it is one of the important characteristics a book should have, the believability of the world, characters, and the story created, especially in fictions. I also love the subtle hints that establish the relationships of characters.
A bonus: Homunculus story resembles “The Facts In The Case Of The Departure Of Miss Finch” by Neil Gaiman from “ Fragile Things”.
Offer number four: inconsistencies. I found a handful of inconsistencies while reading this book like how (in one story) the narrator often shifts from calling the character by name and by her nickname. There are also a couple stories where there are inconsistencies on how the characters talk and even their overall attitude, like Madame Fortuna from the story Homunculus and Suchin from Suchin’s Escape. Even the narrators’ tone changes from time to time. In the story Gatemouth Willie Brown On Guitar, the narrator is trying too hard to sound like a black man and it almost disrupts the flow of the story and makes it less believable.
Offer number five: for the format, I have only read this on digital — I tried looking for a physical copy in my local bookstores but I did not find one — the digital format is not that good. It is simply not meant for screens. It seems like they just scanned the pages from the physical book and digitized it, which makes the page number displayed by your device not correspond to the page number printed on the actual page. You will also get blank pages. That is an extra swipe for those digital format reader.
Offer number six: illustrations and an almost deal breaker, at least for me. I am a massive fan of comics and graphic novels so the word “illustrated” got me so excited! But every time before I read a book I skim and scan through the pages, and there I discovered it is not fully illustrated like a comic or a graphic novel. The only illustrations it contains are for each story’s cover art. I was so disappointed almost did not want to read it at all. But I gave it a chance and I I am happy I did.
The illustrations are good though, it will remind you of those cover arts from the 90s’ pocket-sized generic books. Also, I think there are stories in this collection that are better suited in an illustrated format.
Overall, this is a good collection of stories. While reading these stories you won’t notice it sinking into you, you will just be surprised when the stories end, you will realize that it hit you and made an impact. So I give this book a 3 out of 4 stars rating. Definitely recommend it to those who are looking for a thrill, or those books with odd unsettling feeling but also with clear life lessons. And like any other collection of stories or anthologies, there are a few in this collection that is forgettable. They are not that bad but they do not give much of an impact compared to the others.
There are stories where characters’ relationships are not conveyed properly. There are supporting characters that have so much potential that I think will make their respective stories richer but was not delved into. On the contrary, there are main characters that are very deep and complex without giving much background and details. I guess it is what makes these stories more appealing, the lack of prejudice to the characters to the story itself since there is no introduction and or set up for them because, again, these are short fictions.
3 out of 4 stars rating and definitely recommended. But my fair warning to those who think this is completely visual or illustrated.
I hope you find these stories unsettling, moving, and peculiar as I did.
Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016
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