by Jonathan Natusch
This is the author’s first collection of short stories, numbering twenty in all. I was impressed by the variety, not only of subject matter but also of style.
From the horror and suspense of tales such as “The Marionette” and “In the Wall”, the wit and satire of “The Trouble With Time Travel” and “Selected Cards From A Defence Lawyer’s Tarot Deck”, to the futuristic threat to the human race of the title story “Plague Ship”, I was largely entertained.
Some of the offerings are short, as in the case of the very funny “The Trouble With Time Travel” at one and a half pages, without losing effect. A lot of the stories have a strong science fiction theme, with some reading like they would not be out of place in a Dr Who episode, but I felt the title story to be the jewel in the crown.
“Plague Ship” is well constructed as a short story and could well make for the basis of a full novel. The characters are realistically drawn and the story told in timeline (not always in order) as a count-down to the clincher. The sudden outbreak and rapidly spreading virus taking the world completely by surprise requires the best medical minds to unravel the mystery and find a cure. The question of where it came from remains unanswered but the why is delivered in the final two sentences. Nicely done, Mr Natusch. This is truly a science fiction thriller and it could sit quite comfortably in such a compendium alongside a sample from Ian M. Banks’ “State Of The Art”.
The selections and the order in which they appear in this publication are what make the book such an entertaining read. The longer, and sometimes darker tales, are nicely balanced with the shorter ones and the mix avoids what some collections suffer from – sameness. When turning the pages can take the reader from the ghost of a New Zealand gang member rising from the dead to wreak revenge, to a very clever alternative take on a famous fairy tale, or from the arty surrealism of Carl’s hangover, to the satire constructed from a Tarot deck, there is little room for monotony.
The book concludes with “The Last Romantic”. Built from the preface of an excerpt from Lord Byron’s poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” regarding the beauty of nature and a world unspoiled by humankind, it closes the collection wonderfully. I am sure there are many who would be envious of Simeon Coppell’s choice of the perfect life. Well, maybe….
Altogether a great read.
Author: Jonathan Natusch
Publisher: Occasionally Erudite Publications
Available: Softcover from bookdepository.co.uk, amazon.com or by emailing publisher email@example.com