Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Rumours of the Marvellous by Peter Atkins

Book review by Jim McLeod

It's been a while since I last read anything by Peter Atkins; it must be something like 15 years since I read Big Thunder. A lot can happen in 15 years; what you liked then may well not be the same as what you like now. Hell, just looking back at some of the music I used to listen to then is embarrassing. So 15 years down the line I picked up his collection of short stories and poetry: Rumours of the Marvellous published by Alchemy Press, in a rather fetching limited hardback edition, with an introduction by Glen Hirshberg. Thankfully these 15 years have been kind on my love for Peter's writing. The main reason for this is that Peter's writing is indeed rather marvellous.

Before I talk about my favourite stories in the collection, I have to admit, that I completely skipped over Dr Arcadia a poem that gives Tam O'Shanter run for its money in terms of length. I have never been able to get into poetry, and even though I started to read this poem, I just couldn't get into it. I'm not saying it's poorly written; all I am saying is I can't make judgement on it. Poetry is as baffling to me as the female mind.

I'll admit I was hard pushed to single out the best stories in this collection, the quality within the book is exceptional, truly exceptional. However, King of Outer Space is a moving tale about love conquering the vast distances of Space, or so it seems. The twist ending to this tale is a stroke of genius. It also has one of my favourite lines from the book:

"Flames shimmer from its boosters, their majestic roar telling the laws of physics to go fuck themselves."
That sentence alone sums up, for me, an underlying tongue-in-cheek element to the stories presented here. I may be wrong, but it felt that there was a very subtle line of humour, a sly wink to the camera, nothing to make you laugh out loud.

Stacy and Her Idiot mixes drugs, severed fingers, some Lovecraftian monsters and a scorned woman on a mission of revenge. This is a hugely fun read, with an ending that makes me hope we will be hearing more from this plucky heroine (we do in the final story of this collection).
The Cubist's Attorney is an odd tale indeed, full of very odd characters coming together for a reading of a will. A will that has some truly odd bequeathals. Again, Peter pulls the rug from under the reader's feet with the ending of this tale.

Rumours of the Marvellous is a brilliant collection. Sometimes single author collections can drag a bit -- not so the case here. Peter Atkins has such a varied style that it keeps the collection fresh, right up to the last page. A marvellous collection from a master story teller.

You can purchase the book by clicking this link (also available via Amazon). And you should. Aside from the great stories, this is another example of a small press producing an excellent looking book for a price that is remarkable.

More about Peter Atkins can be found on his blog here.

(This review originally appeared on the Ginger Nuts of Horror reprinted with permission.)

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