The thought of getting a book out there is one full of doubt. These authors just seem so distant and completely different to you and I. But when a friend gets a book out there, that distance vanishes. When someone you know has pushed one out into the wild, it is a comforting thought. And Bright Lights & Glass Houses manages to shine just as brightly as those other books from distant people completely different to you and I.
Bright Lights & Glass Houses is a short story collection dealing with darkly comic tales of assassins, serial killers, strange places and twisted romance, topics which are already more interesting than the drunken ex-boxers and abusive fathers which plague student minds. Each of the twenty-two stories has a distinct style and tale to tell, none blur into one another even when dealing with similar themes. Some stories start bizarre, such as the brilliant ‘The Last Voice You’ll Ever Hear’ as a serial killer goes around tying up girls though never killing them due to the choice he gives them. Then there is something like ‘Kissing Games’ which plays heavily on realism as a group of girls and boys play a kissing game in the attic which takes a turn for the unexpected. There is no complete normality here, and it is welcome thanks to the messed up plot twists and fantasy traits subtly merging in with our expectations of the world.
The story events aren’t the only thing Ashton plays around with either. He also likes to dabble with different styles. On tale may be told in a conventional style, the next as a set of emails from an old lady. One of the most surprising instances of the use of style came from ‘Bright Lights & Glass Houses’, as sentences from one character merged into another. At first it threw me, but it quickly sunk in and made for a rather warped story with an essence of Satoshi Kon about it. There are other multiple clear inspirations going on from the likes of Joe Hill to Michel Faber, but Ashton always maintains his own voice which is entertaining and often amusing.
Even when a story may not work out quite as smoothly as it could, you have to applaud the ideas and methods behind each story. And it hits the sweet spot for the reader for the majority of the collection. Sometimes the dialogue feels tailored to pushing forth jokes, but I feel this adds to part of the slightly kitsch atmosphere which brings the slightly off atmosphere which often brings the slightly unsettling edge to proceedings. Only once did I feel a story slip away into a confused state, and it was a one-off between eye collectors and lonely office workers celebrating the retirement of a man who may not exist. It’s up there with collections I’ve read from the big shots of the industry.
If you like the sound of that, I urge you to pick up a copy from here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/ashton-raze/bright-lights-glass-houses/paperback/product-20193883.html#productDetails
As my friend you may think I could be overly positive, but even I was surprised by the quality on display here. As a writer myself, I admire his less than typical ideas and it shows I still have some ways to go. But when it is someone you know, a heated rivalry can blossom and I feel this collection is a worthy goal post for me to shoot for.