It's everything I expected an M John Harrison book should be, including the unexpected.
In a way, You Should Come with Me Now is a logical and successfIt's everything I expected an M John Harrison book should be, including the unexpected.
In a way, You Should Come with Me Now is a logical and successful sequel to Things That Never Happen, in which his previous short prose is collected – there are some constant themes and motifs, one might say obsessions, woven in the way the author treats his cities, landscapes, human interaction and its limitations, female characters, illness, dreams, etc. – but even someone who’s very familiar with MJH’s prose will find fresh gems in here.
This collection abounds in really short fiction, pieces which the author has published mostly on his web site, and these stories vary from lyrical passages and onyrical musings, to ironic and/or political miniatures, short farces, modern fables, and even condensed novels. They are very interesting and wonderfully written reads. Although one can learn quite a few tricks of the trade by reading any of MJH’s fiction, these short pieces are, in my view, especially valuable, for they demonstrate how important the care for words is, how precise and beautiful language can be, and how great an effect you can create in a very limited space if you use your tools knowingly. However, this collection does not end with flash fiction. (Actually, it does, but that’s not the point.) There are 18 longer short stories that make the backbone of the book, and they are, along with the miniatures, organized in such a manner that I had a strong feeling I was reading a fragmentary, non-linear, surreal(istic) novel. The author claims on his web site that such effect was intended, and if so, the intent was well realized: in many ways – the overall mood, overlapping themes, formal and substantial refrains, (the illusion of) general progression – this is a novel. Then again, every story speaks for itself. Some are set in MJH’s newest imaginary location – Autotelia, so different and so much the same as the world we live in; some revisit his well-known Viriconium (or versions of it); and some are completely set ‘on our side of things’, but that doesn’t make them prosaic, or more (or less?) realistic. Many of them don’t have what you’d call a “linear narrative”, their structure is often unusual, episodic, mutated, their characters tend to be strange and eccentric and their action arguable, but these stories always follow their inner logic and always manage to bring you a satisfactory conclusion, mostly due to their author’s great commitment to detail. We are often smitten by his observant eye, his ability to pinpoint a small truth of life in a side remark, in sparse dialogue or seemingly irrelevant description. The focus of the story isn’t always where we’re used to finding it, but there always is one, although it might require a search party of our own, set to explore these undiscovered continents. The magic lies in the possibility of different readings, in the variety of our findings. Nothing in these stories is unimportant, every word is there because it is necessary, and sometimes this realization by itself seems enough. But, of course, the final reward is always much greater. ...more