Stories are great things and take us everywhere form fantasy worlds to real life situations. The desire to find out what happens next and enjoy the ride, flipping pages at the speed of a golf cart, that shows the story is something. This book Stories is a large collection of short stories, all by different authors and top rated ones at that so it should be the most amazing collection of stories you could own.
Though I read the lot of them and thinking back they all blurred into one. Sex, cringe humour, all the characters being middle-aged nearly and plots tending to be revolving around death through killings or disease. These themes repeat so often I thought I was reading the thoughts of one and the writing all feels like one voice, this may be because the collection was edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio but I rarely felt like I was reading a collection of many different writers. Everything is polished, the stories are well written and would probably score top marks but I can’t find the soul, it either got polished away or these award winning writers couldn’t be bothered, just put anything out for the collection almost.
Each story seems to have incredibly slow starts and most delve into the past for about two-thirds of the tale and by the time things are getting engaging the stories end on rubbish note. The pages begin to feel heavy and I realise I’m not having such a good time. I first put it down to possibly not enjoying reading stories despite believing I do but then I remembered how much I loved the short story collection Some Rain Must Fall, the light novel Naive. Super and the Aberystwyth detective novels. All with distinct styles and feeling whereas this stuff feels textbook. It might be fine for those looking for a safe read with no surprises and lots of thigh shaking after the sex scene and you may not mind most of the characters are reflecting on the past before doing something minimal in the present. I want fresh original excitement though and this collection just doesn’t deliver, it feels stuffy.
Not to say I disliked it all. I enjoyed a handful of stories and most of them did get good around the midway point before ending flatly. Neil Gaiman’s story ‘The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains’ is great, it pulled me in from the start as two men go to climb a mountain looking for gold. It sounds boring but the characters are brought to life with entertaining dialogue and a pace which always gives the feeling something is actually happening. It makes the story Elizabeth Hand wrote, ‘The Maiden Flight Of McCauley’s Bellerophon’ look a little rusty as she clearly doesn’t know how to write young characters as the scenes involving the teenagers are cringeworthy and so stereotypical I felt offended how idiotic she made them. Her story was generally decent apart from some nonsense towards the end though, I just felt her dialogue compared to Neil’s was so corny. Another high point of the collection would be ‘The Therapist’ by Heffery Deaver which really pulled me into the world of a mad man though it could have cut the overblown explanations down on Nemes.
Stories has good points, most of the stories have that moment when you want to know what happens next but these moments are merely the fillings in-between two pieces of stale bread. The collection feels to safe and full of cliché, when a fresh idea comes about it is let down by not being daring enough.