100% ridiculous and better for it on every page. Bone cracking violence and filthy sex, with a nauseating finish. This is how every action film should...more100% ridiculous and better for it on every page. Bone cracking violence and filthy sex, with a nauseating finish. This is how every action film should be but none are these days.(less)
I'd been wanting to jump on these collections since I realised they existed about 6 months ago now, but with not knowing where to start, and some quie...moreI'd been wanting to jump on these collections since I realised they existed about 6 months ago now, but with not knowing where to start, and some quiet mixed reviews of previous years on here, I decided to wait for the 2010 edition, and Mr. Russo hasn't disappointed with this cracking collection. I'm not really one for review writing so I won't go into details about each story, but out of the twenty here, only two could I class anywhere near not having enjoyed all that much, which is a much better attrition rate than any previous collections I've read. Essential to anyone who loves the art of the short story.
While being very hard to narrow down, here are the stories that really stood out for me (Originally to be be a top five, but I just enjoyed far too many.)
Someone Ought To Tell Her There's Nowhere To Go - Danielle Evans The Valetudinarian - Joshua Ferris Least Resistance - Wayne Harrison Painted Ocean, Painted Ship - Rebecca Makkai Further Interpretations Of Real-Life Events - Kevin Moffett The Ascent - Ron Rash The Seagull Army Descends On Strong Beach - Karen Russell The Cowboy Tango - Maggie Shipstead Raw Water - Wells Tower(less)
For me, this collection shows that Wells Tower is a master of words, a true talent with crafting some beautiful sentences, but for the most part, is s...moreFor me, this collection shows that Wells Tower is a master of words, a true talent with crafting some beautiful sentences, but for the most part, is still some way short of being a great storyteller. This may sound rather harsh - after all this is his first published collection - but with all the hype surrounding him currently, I can't help but expecting more from this book.
The stories are fast paced and as mentioned the language is wonderful, I had no trouble getting into a story and wanting to find out where it was going. Anger felt genuinely raw and violent, descriptive scenes made me feel like I was within the landscape, and I was even impressed that during one fight scene actual wrestling / BJJ terms and techniques were used (but this mainly stems from recently reading a short story where someone throws a 'Jiu-Jitsu Kick', err...). He also seems to have a good aptitude for writing as a child; these moments for me were easily the most interesting.
But this also leads on to a major issue I have with most of the stories in the collection, they feel disconnected within themselves at times, and have very unsatisfying endings. Take the story 'On The Show', without detailto avoid spoilers, it starts with two children at a carnival, meeting for the first time, along with a parent each who are going on a first date together. A major part of the story soon emerges involving one of the children, from which point the story changes to a carnival worker on the pirate ship, his story evolves somewhat, then it quickly jumps to a worker on a different ride momentarily, then back to the pirate ship guy, off to a cattle competition judge, and quickly back to pirate ship chap for a disappointing ending, which resolves near on nothing for any of the characters. Personally, while it seems rather fashionable to include these open endings in short stories, I find them rather unsatisfying, or at least when everyone bar one in a nine story collection ends like it.
The final story, the one which this book takes its title from, is the one most people will have heard about or already read, the one about the Vikings. In theory it is a sudden departure from the modern day tales, (which I don't have a problem with like some don't seem keen on) but in practice it feels much like the others, it's still about a young to middle age male living to survive, having family issues, and trying to decide what to do with his life. It certainly isn't true to any historical Viking history, yes the names are from that part of the world, but they speak perfect, modern English, and at least twice they are seen saying 'motherfucker', a term I highly doubt a Viking word use even in his native tongue. This is my favourite story in the collection for one simple reason, it has a ending! There is a nice introductory beginning, something happens in the middle, and you know what has happened by the end, not a 100% ending, you can still imagine in your mind how certain characters live afterwards if you so wish too, but not a loose ending which actually feels like it's about 65% through the story you want to hear, like the rest in this book.
While this collection has left me slightly underwhelmed, I am still very interested in what Mr. Tower does in future. I first read his story 'Raw Water' in 'The Best American Short Stories 2010' (originally published in McSweeney's) which isn't included in this collection. I don't know when that was written compared to the stories here, but I'd imagine after as it felt more connected, more of a actual story, and if he can grasp this vital skill then I have no doubt he can become a modern great as the press are currently pushing him as, but from this set alone, I don't see it. (less)