Just finished the stories in Veronica Dale's fabulous collection, Night Cruiser. The last story, about a creative writing class, was so rich in real detail (I have taught creative writing) that the twist, when it came, flipped me from reality to fantasy and horror and even humor with a few skillful shakes. Other standouts include "Persons of Marred Appearance" for its faith themes, startling characters (the "grieving deacon") and intense language like "shifting, dazzling water-stars." What is faith? Dale seems to ask. "It's the human condition" comes the answer from a not-quite human source. "Within Five Feet" shows hints of Dale's COIN OF RULVE series to come, with its increasingly terrifying and astonishing imagery. Dale shows signs in this slim volume of capturing the world wide web zeitgeist with the zeal and terror of Kafka....Continua
Although I would not have picked this book up to read judging by its dark cover, because I'm not keen on creepy, scary or sinister books, I really enjoyed them all, and also the opportunity to learn from its introduction about Carl Jung's concept of the Shadow, which provides the uniting theme for this collection of short stories. On reading, I found them funny, insightful, charitable and fascinating, with imaginative twists and developments of character and plot.
Although they share a central theme, they are all quite different, and the author has used an unusual but effective means to set the mood at the start of each story, so that the reader is not wrong-footed by reading dissimilar stories in succession (which is one of my pet hates about collections or anthologies that don't have a common theme or genre): she provides a brief introductory paragraph, as you might see if reading the story in a magazine, to whet your appetite.
Veronica Dale is a slick and accomplished writer, and I wasn't surprised to see that many of the stories have won prizes or been shortlisted for awards. As with any collection, I liked some stories more than others, particularly the more structured ones, and my favourites included the poignant "Dried Beans", the wacky futuristic "Persons of Marred Appearance" and the very clever "Within Five Feet".
I was interested to learn that Dale is also a Christian minister, which I'm sure colours the book, but it's not remotely evangelical, and is inclusive of other faiths. If you didn't know this biographical fact, I don't think you'd spot it from the stories you'd just think the book was written by somebody kind and thoughtful.
Recommended reading, especially while the nights are long and dark!
This is a collection of short stories, all of them with aspects of the monster under the bed and one, in particular, which stood out for me as the best of the lot. “Advent” is an exceptional piece of writing which is worth buying this collection for just to read it. There are biblical touches in it due (I presume) to the writer's background which I wouldn't normally find appealing but there was so much more to this story. It depicts human history and centres on the deep need inside of all of us, the source of which each individual may never discover. The central core of human psychological need, a void which manifests itself in material possessions, wealth or spirituality which only a few actually manage to fill and call themselves contented. We want more and more but we don't know of what and more is never enough for some. The story is fabulous....Continua