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THE BOOKS OF JACOB - Olga Tokarczuk

This is a daunting one at 900+ pages, but I enjoyed this Polish author’s previous novel - ‘Drive your plow over the bones of the dead’, so I am diving on in. It sounds intriguingly epic, and the pages are numbered backwards! More thoughts to come if I make it through to the end.

EXPECT ME TOMORROW - Christopher Priest

This one has only just been released but I am already a few chapters in. As a longtime Priest fan I have become accustomed to buying his books as soon as they are released, and this one sounds particularly interesting, even for him. No one else quite does what Priest does in his novels, which is to masterfully and subtly create a sense of unreality and uncertainty. His ‘dream archipelago’ novels and stories are as original and compelling as it gets, in my opinion.


I have found myself having to read these stories slowly, and with big gaps in between, as there tends to be a lot going on, but they certainly reward re-reading. ‘Lull’ is a particularly complex story, and I am very much enjoying it the second time around. The structure alone is very daring, featuring several nested stories.


The title says it all, and if that were not enough, here is the first line:

‘It is worse, much worse, than you think.’ A hard-hitting non-fiction book about global warming - this is a tough read. Th first chapter overwhelms with statistics that paint a grim picture for anyone concerned about the future and climate change. Having to take regular breaks from this one to read something a bit less heavy but it’s fascinating all the same. Probably an interesting partner read with the new novel from Christopher Priest (see above), which is also an exploration of the same theme (from what I’ve heard.)

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  • Writer's picturegary venn

My short story 'Now that I have broken up' has been published and is now available to read over at Uncharted Magazine... If you scroll down on the homepage it is there under 'Latest Stories' or you can click here. This story was recently awarded 3rd place by the judge (US author Benjamin Percy) in Uncharted's horror/thriller short story competition.

The story is about a possible encounter with something very strange - as seen through various distorted or unreliable perspectives. To say much more would be to risk ruining the effect of the story. Better just to read it.

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I thought that as well as posting here about my own writing projects, I would occasionally post a mini-review or just some thoughts on what I am currently reading (or re-reading)…

I have been revisiting some of the stories of American author Steven Millhauser, a novelist and story writer who is I think best known for his shorter work. His story ‘Eisenheim the Illusionist’ was the basis for the movie starring Edward Norton, ‘The Illusionist’. The story is, of course, far more interesting, and is not really about magic ultimately, (and doesn’t have the tacked-on love story that Hollywood deemed necessary.)

I have read several of his novels which are fantastic but I really enjoy his short story collections - if you haven’t read Millhauser I think this is the place to start. Millhauser writes strange, magical stories that are often set in suburban America, and almost always have a magical realist element, sometimes with a dark undertone, sometimes more whimsical, always impeccably written. He often writes in first-person-plural point of view, which gives a really interesting feel to the strange events in the stories, a sort of collective observation that is simultaneously participatory.

A particular favourite, and a good representative story from his work, is ‘Beneath the Cellars of our Town’, from the collection ‘The Knife Thrower’. In it the collective ‘we’ simply describes a strange network of passages and tunnels that exist beneath an otherwise ordinary small town. From this simple premise Millhauser presents a strange world that exists under the ground, and the way that it exerts an influence on those who descend into it. The idea of impossible spaces or objects seems to be a recurring theme with Millhauser. Being a fan of these things myself, I find that most of Steven Millhauser’s stories really work for me - they have that appealing dream-like quality.

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