Annie's Reviews > Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower
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Apr 15, 2009

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bookshelves: short-stories, 2009
Read in June, 2009

So, I really wanted to like this collection a lot more than I think I actually did. That isn't to say it's bad at all, or not worth reading, but on the whole I have to say the stories just didn't grab me the way I really love in a story.

My favorite story is the title one - Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned - which is actually the reason I picked this up at all. I'd read it a couple years ago in one of those "best new writers" compilations, and it jumped out at me as such an exceptional, original take on the usual war story, so much so that when I heard a compilation was coming out I knew I had to get it right away. The lines near the ending, "...I got an idea of how terrible love can be. You wish you hated those people, your wife and children, because you know the things the world will do to them, because you have done some of those things yourself". Just, wow. Great stuff - I think that sentiment kind of sums up what I find so great about this story - it's got a really epic feel to it, but manages to feel really intimate as well, and all of that in one short story less than twenty pages long. I think it also sums up what didn't quite do it for me in the rest of the stories. The sense of intimacy is there in all of them, and it's something Tower appears to be really great at creating, but the epic-ness is gone. I wished there could've been another story in this collection that gave me the same feeling as those last lines above.

None of which is to say these aren't good. Tower comes up with some excellent lines, especially in his descriptions of mundane objects - "It looked like a half-cooked eraser with dreams of suddenly becoming a prostitute", describing a dead baby bird from Wild America stood out to me as one example. I did enjoy reading these stories as I'm kind of a short story junkie, and there's a lot to like here, but if you're expecting more work like the title story, it could feel slightly disappointing. This in itself isn't all bad - it shows Tower's ability and willingness to try new things with his work, and not stick to one formula, and because of this and the aspects of his stories I do like, I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for his work in the future.
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