When winter stretches on for half the year and people are forced to spend entirely too much time indoors, strange things are bound to happen. Randolph’s city of Sornsville, and the local coffee shop he works at, are no exceptions. But through all the irate customers and cryogenically preserved mammals, the drinks that magically disappear just when their order has come up, and the simian clerks that know far too much for their own good, Randolph somehow manages to keep an even keel. Here are twenty linked stories, or twenty episodes if you will, about Randolph and the small, frozen, and thoroughly odd part of the world he inhabits.
A good short story is more than a vignette: something or someone has to change in the course of it; its characters need to learn things, or change their minds, and move on in some way, otherwise the piece of writing—no matter how beautifully phrased it is—will be little more than a series of disjointed actions, observed by a disinterested reader.
Randolph’s One Bedroom is that disjointed thing. Each episode that I read was a reasonable account of a string of events, but that doesn’t make a story: there was no character development, and no sense of growth and no conclusions: just accounts of small snippets of time, with some slightly odd behaviour included for no real reason that I could see.
There was also too much exposition; far too much detail, much of which I found dull; and quite a few points where the writer contradicted himself, made illogical statements, or used a word which jarred and so stopped the flow of the text.
I like short story collections and I like writing which is quirky and slightly off-kilter: I’d hoped that this collection would deliver me some of that quirk. Instead, this is a lacklustre collection of pieces which are, I suspect, intended to intrigue and delight but which only served to bore me by the time I’d finished reading.
I hope the writer considers plot and pacing more carefully in his future work; and that he learns to edit his work far more stringently than he has edited this collection.
I read twenty-two out of its one hundred and forty-three pages and those twenty-two pages were heavy going. I hope that this author will do better as he becomes a more experienced writer.
The Pan of Hamgee isn’t paranoid. There must be some people in K’Barth who aren’t out to get him; it’s just that, right now, he’s not sure where they are. His family are dead, his existence is treason and he does the only thing he can to survive — getaway driving.
As if being on the run isn’t bad enough, when he finds a magic thimble and decides to keep it, he unwittingly sets himself on a collision course with Lord Vernon, K’Barth’s despot ruler.
Unwillingly, The Pan is forced to make choices and stand up for his beliefs — beliefs he never knew he had until they were challenged. But, faced with a stark moral dilemma will his new found integrity stick? Can he stop running?
“Funny and completely original, I loved it.” Joe, aged 13
“I am your number one fan.” Emily, aged 30 something
Many of the books I’ve reviewed here could have done with a good hard edit, and Few are Chosen is no exception. Where it differs from most of those other books however is that (based on the pages I read) it is most in need of a copy edit rather than a full-blown structural one. I found numerous punctuation problems, a couple of tautologies, some odd sentence constructions and some pretty naff typesetting choices which made the text much harder to read than it should have been.
However, I also found an engaging main character (even though his humour was a little forced at times), a fast-paced opening and a better-than-usual setup. If the author were to improve on the few weaknesses I found, reduce his reliance on exposition, and cut back on his use of adjectives and dialogue tags his book would be significantly improved.
I read four pages out of this book’s two hundred and forty-five, but despite that low page-count I might well return to it again.
You’ll also find this review on my bigger blog, How Publishing Really Works. You can comment on it here, but you can’t over there.
When Paul Webber is approached by an intriguing widow to write a book about her “highly influential, but criminally obscure” husband, the artist Alfred Tomas, Paul thinks Tomas will be his first step towards achieving literary glory. But the more he learns about Tomas, the more he begins to question the quiet family life he leads with his wife Sylvia and their young son Josh.
Tomas has the potential to be an absorbing, interesting read: but it’s sadly let down by careless mistakes and what I suspect is the writer’s inexperience.
Unlike most of the other writers I’ve reviewed here, Robert Bedick knows how to use an em-dash (hurrah!); but his use of hyphens is haphazard, and his use of speech marks is inconsistent especially where other punctuation marks get involved.
His characters did a pretty good job of engaging my attention: but they were prevented from reaching their full potential by some flabby writing which I found both confusing and distracting. And as for the dialogue tags—no! Almost every single one might just as well have climbed onto my kitchen table and waved its red knickers in the air, they distracted me so from the narrative flow. Writers rarely need to use more than “he said”, “she whispered”; I don’t think there’s ever a call for “I meekly offered in rebuttal”.
So: would I recommend this book? Very nearly, but not quite. Mr. Bedick could easily improve it to a point where I would have recommended it just by tightening it up and deleting all of those overdone dialogue tags: but then it would have made an extremely short book. I read eleven pages out of one hundred and ninety-two, and think Mr. Bedick would do well to edit his own work far more rigorously in future.
“We’ll Always Be Pals” are the last words my father said to me before he died. The youngest of his six children, he taught me everything there is to know about how to be a man in this world. He should know, after the life he lived. Born in 1920, Gene McManus witnessed some of the most historic events in our country’s history. A product of the Great Depression, he was a football star, a boxer, and a B-24 Liberator pilot and POW during World War II.
My story is a small one. Out of football for two full seasons after a glorified college career, I had left my football dreams behind me until I got a call out of the clear blue sky. The man who taught me how to play the game was all the inspiration I ever needed to realise a life long held dream.
“We’ll Always Be Pals” is ultimately the story of a father and son who were fifty years apart in age yet ended up best of friends.
“We’ll Always Be Pals”: The Last Words of a Dying Father and a True Hero! is part memoir, part biography, as Tom McManus tells both his life story and his father’s. It’s a potentially touching story—McManus’s brief career in pro-football was hampered by injury, and his father was a prisoner of war—but I’m afraid that it didn’t engage me. The writing is clunky and pedestrian, I found several sentences which didn’t quite make sense, there were a few oddly-capitalised words and a whole rash of extraneous commas. I read just eleven pages of text out of a total of 281 pages in order to find my fifteen errors, and wish that this story had been more strongly told.