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Smashwords book reviews by Greg Stolze
- Fausterella and other stories
on June 25, 2011
I enjoyed this collection quite a bit. Harrad's language has a pleasing efficiency that lends itself to characterization, especially in the titular story and my personal favorite, "They're Not Dead Until They Stop Talking." The clean, clear understated prose stands aside to let you immediately tangle with the surreal, bizarre and often grotesque elements. At her best, the author reminds me a fair bit of Kelly Link.
Fairytales provide recurring motifs, with Cinderella inspiring not just "Fausterella" but also "Stepmother," both of which invert the trope of the virtuous and suffering orphan (though the two stories take their inversions in very different directions). "The Wood" gives Little Red Riding Hood a similar treatment, not only changing some key details, but deepening the mystery and implying a whole forest full of symbolic victimizers, not just one hungry and anthropomorphized wolf.
That said, I think "The Soho Puppeteer" was the scariest story, operating without a folkloric resonance--just characters who matter going into inexplicable peril. I also got a big kick out of "Squirrel Killing," a piece that's 99% characterization, with just enough left out to leave haunting ambiguities at the end. (It reminded me a bit of Italo Calvino's "The Dinosaurs.")
It's not perfect: If I was talking to her face to face I'd encourage her to take more risks and give herself permission to get fully gone with the eerie or absurd premises she presents so gracefully. But is it worth two bucks? Hell, I'd have paid four.
- The Obituarist
on May 15, 2012
I'm not objective about Patrick O'Duffy - we've worked together more than once, and he's a buddy. That said, I think one reason we're buddies is that we have similar aesthetics.
I was predisposed to like "The Obituarist" and I did. O'Duffy's writing is clean, clear and robust, without any wasted prose or self-indulgence. But despite its economy, it retains a lot of energy, humor and verve. It uses a classic film-noir structure -- a dame who's trouble the minute she walks in through the protagonist's door -- as a lens for a very modern story about cyber-theft, identity and (just a little bit) self-awareness. "The Obituarist" shares some DNA with Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie, but O'Duffy never gets lazy about the details of modern crime in small town Australia. The details are always just right, fresh and precise, never borrowed or sketched in. And the characterization of Samosa is a minimalist joy.