Well November once again saw a lot of interesting things. The Australian Marriage Equality postal survey came back a majority yes, AC/DC’s Malcolm Young passed away (RIP), and many new games for Nintendo Switch were released. As for me, I attended the Australian Short Story Festival and Supanova to name just a couple of things. However, the best part of this month is that I’ve started my Japan/Hong Kong journey. Writing to you, dear reader, now from Kyoto, I can certainly say it’s been an amazing trip so far. The amount of activities I’ve done as well as the books and games I’ve bought are endless. Anywho, this month’s reading was quite diverse, where I read especially a fair number of short stories. So with no further delay, let’s see what I read this month.
The Listeners by Christopher Pike
This is continued on from my previous Book Talk. The Listeners was a very interesting story overall. The story picked up a lot more and it started to get really terrifying. I liked the protagonists David and Ned in this story, as well as the twin sisters. Their stories and actions were meaningful and well thought out.
However, despite this, there were still some unfortunate downers with this story. The first being all the flashbacks that occurred in this story. Whilst interesting and explained the plot, they were just so lengthy and broke from the narrative flow. They also felt more like info dumps in certain parts, especially with the journeys in Africa. The ending was a little strange as well and didn’t exactly wrap up the story in a good way.
Overall, The Listeners was an interesting story with a lot of interesting ideas inside it. It’s just unfortunate there’s a lot of flashbacks and breaks in the narrative flow. I really don’t know how to sum this story up properly. I’d just say read this for something different, or if you’re into an X-Files-like story.
Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor by Matt J. Pike
It’s one of the oldest and greatest fears of humanity: the end of the world. And one of the most frightening, less predictable ways comes from outer space in the form of a comet. Even more terrifying is what will happen to humanity afterwards? Will we die out immediately or die out slowly? This is what Matt J. Pike’s Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor is all about.
Written in a first person perspective, Apocalypse tells the story of Jack Baldwin, a 17 year old who finds himself surviving in a world that’s just been hit by a comet. The story is set in Adelaide and is told through diary entries, similar to Andy Weir’s The Martian.
Despite my love for the genre in films and games, I’ve not really read too many end of the world novel in the past. However, unlike many of those end of the world stories I’ve consumed across the mediums, this one is certainly a breath of fresh air. I throughly enjoyed the storyline and the whole idea of the nuclear winter. Yeah, some of Jack’s resourcefulness felt a little too coincidental, but that matters little when his characterisation and quick thinking is realistic. It makes him feel a lot less bulletproof and smarter than the stock standard end of the world character. Also to have this story set in Adelaide made me resonate more with the story. The places mentioned are familiar to me and made the impact of it much stronger.
If you’re looking for a good “end of the world” read, Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor is one you should check out. It takes a fresh approach on an old plot line and feels believable. Give this a read too if you’re looking for something new.
As per usual, I’ll keep my thoughts on the short stories brief to prevent possible spoilers.
Carnival of Madness by Ray Bradbury
From A Pleasure to Burn, ‘Carnival of Madness’ is certainly a strange story. The story is very heavily inspired from the works of Edgar Allan Poe, being so much so that it contains the House of Usher. I really loved how messed up the protagonist is and what he did to the people inside his house. Definitely one of the best short stories by Bradbury. You can also find this story too slightly altered in The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man under the name ‘Usher II’.
The Bonfire by Ray Bradbury
Yet another story from A Pleasure to Burn, ‘The Bonfire’ once again looks into the idea of literary censorship and destruction. In contrast to some of the other short stories though in the collection, I had trouble following this slightly. There was so much going on with the protagonist and a fair bit of going back to the past. Overall, it had a lot of good ideas and an alright story, but just didn’t stick with me like other stories in the collection.
Burning Seaweed for Salt by Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter
From Midnight and Moonshine, I had some fun with ‘Burning Seaweed for Salt’. This was a very Viking inspired story with a lot of Nordic mythology mixed in. It got pretty twisted by the end, with some really disturbing and graphic scenes. I didn’t like the characters so much as I didn’t feel connected to them, but it still wasn’t a bad thing. Give this a read if you want something different.
A Pig’s Whisper by Margo Lanagan
From Australis Imaginarium, ‘A Pig’s Whisper’ is a story that I found alright but odd. This was inspired by an old English tale about children getting lost in the woods, only with an Australian twist. I did like the strangeness and imagination around it, but at the same time I had a lot of trouble understanding the writing. It’s a unique story, but apart from that, I’m not too keen on it.
Stealing Free by Deborah Biancotti
‘Stealing Free’ is an odd piece from start to finish. Also from Australis Imaginarium, this short story has a child dream-like world filled with strange creatures. It’s a story full of imagination and fantasy, but at the same time I had a lot of trouble reading it personally. I guess it came down to the style of story that this was written is why I found it hard to read.