by Ramsey Harrison
A Compendium of Unusual Tales is a collection of eight short stories that straddle genres; blurring science fiction, fantasy and thriller to produce a thought-provoking and occasionally humorous group of shorts that definitely have a touch of the bizarre.
This collection undoubtedly grew in strength as the stories progressed. The first, Journey to Return was intriguing with a Blade Runner vibe. I would have liked the relationship/story between Riley and Pixie to have developed further. She was very well-realised and I felt the ending did not do her justice. Catherine’s Curse was a decent, nicely structured short that had a fascinating concept as its core idea and was quite poignant. Joanne, I found the weakest and slightly lacking originality. Debug, again had the feel of a Philip K. Dick short and I liked the twist of tying the fictional story to an unexplained, well-known event that occurred in recent years. As before, I would have liked to have seen it expanded or brought in earlier to the narrative.
Karma Extra is developed better and structured more effectively. Despite the brutal subject matter, I found it quite amusing and thought it one of the strongest in the compendium. Life’s a Bitch and Then you Die was a more ‘normal’ tale and it was quite refreshing for that reason. You are expecting more and it consequently works because of your expectation. The Island is undoubtedly the standout. It’s a thriller that is both thought-provoking, tense and gripping. The exchange between Dr Ruben and Jonathan which forms the basis of the narrative is excellent; the sense and feel of both characters clearly delineated through the dialogue. The descriptive touches and focus on mundane movement and thought emphasising the unsettling dialogue. It is a really good piece of prose and the plot is cleverly nuanced. The last tale follows the thriller genre but is written in the format of a script which I enjoyed, the technique was a departure that held reader focus and the brevity of the story ensured that it did not become tiresome to read.
Overall, a recommended collection with some impressive writing and imaginative concepts. Buy from: