Monday, 12 January 2009

The Revelation: And a Hundred Other Stories

I think I should start by saying I have always been intrigued by Flash Fiction, yet until I was pointed in the direction of Adrian Graham I was not really sure if it would work or not. I love short stories: the format and constraint of the genre forces the writer to construct worlds and brief narratives that offer immediacy to the reader. Yet I was never sure that limiting the word count to hundreds rather than thousands would do anything other than stunt the process of the story telling - I was wrong.

Adrian Graham demonstrates that Flash Fiction brings a new texture to the genre. It provides reader with a moment of a story, offering a narrative that seems to have no start and no end. Instead it forces the reader to fill in the gaps and results in an experience that at times is more like reading poetry than prose.

The first thing that strikes you as you read the opening pages of The Revelation: And a Hundred Other Stories is that Graham is good - really good. I think it is his restraint, his control that impresses. Each story immerses you into a new world, instantly making connections with the characters. The book is split into a number of sections with the tales grouped loosely under the section titles. Yet the stories weave into a bigger picture, leaving you feeling as if you have been on a journey. You meet the forgetful Walter Stevens who needs to make lists, you jog past Lal a man obsessed with carrots,you make a brief acquaintance of a man who changes his name to Ignatius Windsor, you bump into the short story who introduces himself as Colin Greenwood and you bid farewell to the final tall tale that is a story about writing a story.

Graham is not afraid to experiment with style and by just the third outing we have shifted between first and third perspective, altering the narrative voice along the way. However, the reader is taken along without ever feeling that they have become caught up in some big Creative Writing exercise, though The Minimalist would be worthy of any lecturers’ red pen. The stories are never restricted by genre. Graham is as happy in Contemporary Fiction as he is in Science Fiction. Throughout it is the story, not the style or genre that is the defining factor. Yet, this makes no difference. The stories are short - 300 words (ish) short. So if a body snatching alien or a mysterious detention camp are not your things, just move on.

I would recommend this work of fiction to just about anyone. Strangely each story comes and goes so quickly that they seem to melt into one bigger, stranger story, at times reminding me of Will Self. The book is like a journey that twists and turns, yet it never feels disjointed.

Yet perhaps the best thing of all is that you can download a free copy of The Revelation: And a Hundred Other Stories.