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Nothing Looks Familiar

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  42 ratings  ·  14 reviews
Sharp-eyed tales about outsiders, non-conformists, and iconoclasts.

In Nothing Looks Familiar, Shawn Syms' debut story collection, characters from a wide swath of society chart paths from places of danger or unhappiness into the great unknown, each grappling with a central and sometimes unanswerable question: if you fight to change your circumstances, could it be possible t
Paperback, 181 pages
Published September 1st 2014 by Arsenal Pulp Press
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  42 ratings  ·  14 reviews

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George K. Ilsley
Dec 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canada, gay, short-stories
Very powerful collection. One of the strengths in this collection is its diversity. Each story is distinctive; it is not one of those collections where every story feels like a re-hash of the previous set-up. There is no template or formula, just a fascinating range of stories from many points of view about many different things. This is the most successful and refreshing collection I've read in ages.

Man, Woman and Child has absolutely the best ending!

4.5 stars.
Steve Karas
Apr 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In Shawn Syms’s bold debut story collection, Nothing Looks Familiar, there is, thankfully, very little I was already familiar with. Syms takes us into a slaughterhouse and a home for the aged, introduces us to sex-offenders and meth addicts and a grown man who dresses like a baby and sleeps in an adult-sized crib. These are the dark corners of The Great White North, my friends.

Syms’s opening story, “On the Line,” (Journey Prize-nominated) was one of the highlights for me. It’s a fantastically-wr
Jul 27, 2015 added it
Shelves: canlit, fiction

Review by Yutaka Dirks

"I won't go out with another man on the killing floor," says Wanda, the narrator of 'On the Line,' in the opening line of Shawn Sym's debut collection Nothing Looks Familiar. "I can't stand the smell of them, or their attitudes."

Wanda's potential suitors work with her in a meat-packing plant, and carry the smell of dead flesh on their skin. Her preoccupation with their bodies' scent is understandable. It is also emblematic of the auth
Michael Bryson
Oct 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Eleven strong, tender short stories that follow the contours of the every day, including sending out shockwaves of the unexpected, which, after all, is part of every day.

Put another way, there is much in NOTHING LOOKS FAMILIAR that is familiar. These are not stories that strain towards oddness. If anything, they are comfortable in their normalcy, until suddenly they're not.

Syms has a plainspoken style and a painterly eye for detail. The reader is easily placed in each scene and is connected well
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
An interesting collection of characters and stories digging into sex and drugs. Stand out stories were "Snap" about a social worker whose own life becomes invaded, "The Exchange about bullying in high school and "The Eden Climber" about two sisters in a seniors complex. Sometimes you wish for the stories to go into other topics besides sex and drugs , but they are solid in the topics they cover.
Sassafras Lowrey
Jun 30, 2015 rated it liked it
a quick read, but I just couldn't get into the stories. Maybe just not my thing, but sometimes I felt like the stories were trying for shock value. As a little I really didn't like the "man woman and a baby" story that depicted an adult baby in ways that made me feel defensive of the AB side of the age player community.
Dorianne Emmerton
Aug 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book has such compassion for its characters, people who, primarily, live on the margins of society. Syms has a talent for creating realistic voices from diverse characters: from an embittered old lady in a nursing home, to a young mother in the drug trade, to a man with an infantilism fetish, all are credible and touching.
Jan 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
Most of the stories featured characters who were thoroughly unlikeable, guess that's what made them "human". It wasn't until the third to last story that I found empathy for a character. Mr. Syms' writing style is accessible which made the book a faster read than some short story collections I've read in the past.
Julia Mills
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I loved this collection. It was dark, hard, real, gritty, exceptional and, above all, well-written.
Feb 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Good writer. Couldn't relate to most of the stories much but all in all, well written
Nov 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Strong, sad and yet somehow heartening.
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shawn Syms can be compared to Charles Dickens in portraying the dark, crusty underside of cities with humour and sensitivity.
Mar 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
He heard footsteps and recognized a pair of unwelcome voices. One of them was high and sounded like a whiny girl.

“Ya think he’s gonna do it?” said Eddie.

Roddy heard the sound of flies unzipping, followed by noisy streams of urine. He quietly shifted his feet so his shoes wouldn’t be visible in the gap under the stall door.

“He better.” Mike’s reply was low and gruff. He added, “If I don’t bring them home tonight, my dad’s gonna give me a lot more than a fat lip.”

Roddy held his breath.

“We’ll scare
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: shortstories
Very hit or miss. I couldn't get into a lot of the stories. The attempts at being shocking wear thin after a while. Just okay.
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Shawn Syms
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
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Shawn Syms has written about culture, politics, gender and sexuality for the past 24 years. His essays and stories have appeared in 5 anthologies and his literary short fiction was shortlisted for the Journey Prize in 2009.  His writing has appeared in over 50 publications, among them Spacing, The Globe and Mail, the National Post, The Rumpus and The Collagist.

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