2 out of 4 stars
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S.R. Gurney’s Beyond Absolute is a compilation of 46 creative writing ficlets in 6 sections. Each ficlet is only about a page long, with an accompanying picture of nature at the bottom to help stimulate the reader’s mind. In addition, each ficlet ends with a Latin phrase relevant to the topic discussed. There is also an English translation of the Latin phrases included at the back of the book. These ficlets cover a wide range of topics, from the various processes of nature, to love, to the physical world, and to psychological state of mind. However, all of these ficlets have a single theme in common: what is beyond absolute?
Put simply, Gurney’s ficlets, for the most part, focus on the inner workings of the mind in between moments of time. For example, I particularly enjoyed “Advocacy or Superiority”, where the narrator’s consciousness is focused on the various scenes around him, such as the little girl crossing the road, rather than on what the narrator is doing. I found this fascinating, as this helped me, personally, to learn to be more aware of the things that happen around me.
Moreover, Gurney possesses a good command of language, which allows the reader to fully experience the feelings that he is trying to get across, and this in turn helps to create the optimal atmosphere for the reader’s full immersion.
However, the fact that most pieces in Beyond Absolute focus on the same theme acts as a double-edged sword – reading the ficlets one after another gets repetitive after a while due to the same theme being utilised over and over again, only with a few changes.
More importantly, although the theme of the book is “beyond absolute”, I do think that Gurney’s inclusion of a short paragraph of his definition(s) of absolute would help much in way of clarification, as his notions of absolute change from ficlet to ficlet.
Additionally, the inserted photos and Latin phrases, for me personally, were more jarring rather than an effective tool for the reader’s immersion. Photos of nature are, by nature, rather ambiguous; therefore, when coupled with the ficlet, it does generate a sense of confusion, a feeling of “What am I supposed to feel?” Then again, this could be the author’s aim when including said photos. Also, as the ficlets are generally only a page long, the reader has to constantly flip to the back to look for the English translation of the phrase. It would be easier if the English translation was included on the same page.
There are also a couple of grammar and punctuation errors present, but they were minor ones, which did not detract much from the reading flow. The formatting of the novel could also be done in a more professional manner; for example, fonts in the book should be standardised. Therefore, I rate S.R. Gurney’s Beyond Absolute 2 out of 4 stars due to said reasons given above. I would recommend this to people who are interested in exploring the notions of time, psychology, and the inner workings of the mind.
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