Quick ‘n Dirty: Jared Shurin & Anne C. Perry (eds) – Fire

Quick ‘n Dirty is a term used for that first quick search you perform when starting a new research project. It doesn’t have to be exhaustive and all encompassing; it’s just an exploratory search to see what is out there and to collect more search terms before starting a true literature review. I thought it would be a good description for reviews of shorter works, such as short stories or novellas or for less comprehensive reviews of longer works. They may not be as in-depth as I usually try to write my reviews, but hopefully they’ll be a good introduction and indication whether you’d like the stories or books reviewed.

pandemonium-fireFire collects three unique voices and their interpretation of the Dickensian style. Tom Loock’s “A Tale of Cities Two” sheds new light on a classic story, Harry Markov’s “The Tracks That Tower Over Valleys” is a parable of burning needs and Oz Vance sets the Sparkler of Albion spinning in his grave with his “Sketches by Zob”.

To accompany their anthologies, whose contributors are mostly invite-only, Jurassic London releases chapbooks whose contents are selected via open submissions. They are often available for free and are entertaining expansions of the main anthologies. For Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke Shurin and Perry must have thought where there is Smoke there is Fire and this fire contains three interesting stories.

Harry Markov – The Tracks That Tower Over Valleys
Markov’s is a strangely dark tale and quite Dickensian in its social commentary. Its premise of a Dickensian Britain-inspired theme park is reminiscent of that of Sarah Lotz’s Inspector Bucket Investigates from Stories of the Smoke, but interpreted quite differently and with a different thematic focus. This thematic focus takes the form of a social commentary, which focuses mostly on tourism and the way tourists can ignore poverty and other problems in their holiday destination of choice. It’s also about selling out collectively, changing the bulk of one’s life to something that is less than authentic. The ending was suitably bleak, but left me a little unfulfilled.

Tom Loock – A Tale of Cities Two
A funny experiment in which the author created a new piece of writing with the exact same 119 words Dickens used in the opening paragraph of his A Tale of Two Cities. This results in a rather abstract poem, which annoyingly created the same reaction as some of the more obscure modernist poems I was set to read at university; even if it didn’t actually make sense, I had to wring meaning from it. Unfortunately for Loock, works that make feel that way, especially text resembling poetry males me rebellious and disinclined to enjoy a text, even if it’s more flash fiction than poetry.

Osgood Vance – Sketches by Zob
This short story was an interesting piece. Vance creates a feeling of true alienation for our protagonist and for the reader by telling his tale in a hybridised and bastardised form of English. It had a lot of clever wordplay and was quite funny though betimes a bit hard to follow as some of the words’ meaning was hard to trace from its building blocks. It was an object lesson – both for Zob and for the reader – that knowing the words of a language doesn’t mean you understand or speak the language.

The three tales that make up Fire were an interesting read and while they didn’t all three work for me equally well, it was an enjoyable and quick read. It was my first encounter of Markov’s and Loock’s prose, although I’ve been following Markov for a few years first at his own book review blog and now on Twitter. Vance I’d encountered before in Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse and Lost Souls and while Zob’s story might not have been my favourite of his I’ve read it was certainly – that was The Closer, from Stories of the Apocalypse – it was a lot of fun. Fire is the perfect sampler of the sort of stories Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke has to offer.