Writers’ Muse #50 August 2009
A Melange of Short Fiction
By Mark Cantrell
Published By Lulu (www.lulu.com)
Jim Palmer, Editor of Writers' Muse Magazine, presents his verdict of the anthology Isolation Space by Mark Cantrell. The review first appeared in #50 (August 2009) of the magazine
A couple of short stories in this excellent volume have been published previously in the Muse (The Rise & Fall of Sisyphus in issue 39, and An Englishman’s Home Is A... [published as Coming Home To Roost] in issue 45).
I’ve done quite a few reviews in my time but I must admit that this one was hard to write. Isolation Space not only contains many of my favourite fictional genres, many are, in my opinion, written in the style of the ‘Golden Age’, as I mentioned last issue. So – forgive me for being biased and indulging myself!
As well as the horror and science fiction pieces, there are some wonderfully observed satirical stories. It’s hard to write satire that leaves the writer helpless with mirth, rage and realisation of the truth behind the story, but Mark achieves it brilliantly. His pace when writing these types if pieces is inestimable.
It’s hard to pick any favourites from this collection but for sheer creeping me out, the award must be shared between One Way Trip and Window Gazers; the former because ir reminds me so much of the first time I watched the film, Alien, and the latter because even though it was slightly less than two pages long, it made me tuck the covers in and make sure the doors were locked (so much for reading in bed to relax!)
Like many of the best science fiction and horror stories, there are twists in the tail of many of these pieces, and, also like many of the best in those genres, then end, when it hits you, is not at all expected. I pride myself in being able to take a pretty shrewd guess at what happens next, and even the endings, in stories – it’s an element of being an editor (nothing special, just experience I guess).
Only one of the twenty short stories in this collection was solved by yours truly before the end! I know these things are subjective, but that says a lot about a writer in my humble opinion.
Other pieces I feel I have to mention are, Shopping For Katie, involving a form of cloning for childless couples on the face of it. Apart from being more than scientifically possible, the story leaves a nasty taste in the mouth abut that possibility being used for commercial purposes, with the result (in this tale) being poignantly probable. At Death’s Door is another one that creeped me. It’s surreal (I hope) journey into what Poe called the hypnagogic state of mind when you’re unsure of reality and fantasy and the boundaries between become distorted and (as in this piece) break down! Finally, A Walk In The Woods – a seemingly simple tale that has hidden depth and is both prophetic and contemporary in its message, given the problems our planet is facing and with us as passengers on it!
If you love being thrilled, frightened, intrigued, fascinated and engrossed, you can do no better than get hold of this book.
Isolation Space is published by Lulu and can be ordered online from its website. There's also a PDF ebook version that can be downloaded from the anthology page on www.lulu.com, priced £2.00.
Jim Palmer – Editor
Sunday, 21 February 2010