Skip to main content

Freaks by Nik Perring and Caroline Smailes

This is not likely to be a useful or interesting review.

Sorry, that was a brutal beginning, so brutal in fact that I didn’t manage to get a customary disclaimer in first. It was total brutal.


Where was I? Oh yes, being boring and unhelpful. Well, it all stems from the fact that I read Freaks because it was free for Kindle and someone or other keeps talking about Caroline Smailes in such glowing terms that it’s hard to ignore. Also, DarrenCraske has been suitably up-bigged by Scott Pack of The Friday Project, via blogs, social media and give-aways that his formerly nose-turned-up-at works have inveigled their way into what I almost casually term my throw-away collection. It was inevitable in that respect I suppose. 

I don't know who Nik Perring is.

Short and... well, short.
However, it was read over a particularly stressful Christmas period, and in snatches lasting only a few moments (not normally an issue for this book I suspect as it is basically X number of very tiny short stories, of the oft-labelled micro-fiction variety) so very little was properly absorbed*. I remember bits being rather amusing, lots of bits being rather disturbing**, and quite a few interesting seeds of stories which had probably been collected and published in this way to preserve their latent story-worthiness, rather than cultivated only to eventually wither and die being too leggy and stringy to survive the editors’ secateurs. Hmm, sounds like I’m projecting somewhat, eh? Still, there were enough cute angles and interesting twists to these stories, each prefaced with the super-power that the main character displays, to keep the pages flapping, and Craske’s appealing if overly Nintendo-esque (i.e. smiley egg as opposed to Playstation-like genocidal alien) illustrations did not detract anything and in some cases, added value. If it’s still free to download I would recommend it as mental chewing gum, and even if not, worth shelling out on up to but not exceeding the value of £1.99 or thereabouts. In my own personal hierarchy of micro-fiction read and filed away, it probably lags some way behind Dan Rhodes’ Anthropology and Félix Fénéon’s Novels in Three Lines, but if you’re a Joss Whedon fan you’ll probably love it and hate me. 

Nerd.


*In retrospect, not normally an issue either, as I tend to consume books in a covering-the-ground sort of way, relentlessly feeding them into the eyes and more often than not simply adding the title to the “READ” list and ejecting the contents onto the compost heap of the Memory Palace. One might compare me to an enthusiastic but ultimately untalented footballer, or indeed a child.

**Again in retrospect, in that fashion where I know I probably should be disturbed but thanks to a kind of cultural exhaustion that I feel most of the time, and with it an insensitivity to pretty much everything, it wasn’t at all.

Comments

How's about that then?

Apochryphal Tales by Karel Čapek

Many (many) years ago, when I first read War With The Newts, after scouring the Waterstones' internal database (whimsically named Ibid, and from which one could print the details of books onto the till roll in light- and so it seems, time-sensitive purple ink which, on the inches thick ream of leaves I printed for future perusal, faded within a few months rendering my catalogued wish list so much locker mulch) for authors with a suitably Czech-sounding name, having put away an entrée of my first slim Hrabal, a palate-cleansing Kundera and in need of a meaty Moravian main course, I think I might have completely and totally missed just how funny it was, bloated as I was by the doughy and Victorian-sounding translation and the rather unlikely ideation of the future political terroir of mankind and their unusual amphibian slaves and, latterly, sappers, the newts.

How's that for a sentence David Foster Wallace? INTERROBANG.

Well, there's no chance that Čapek's typically Czech…

Free Fall In Crimson by John D. MacDonald

Trav is back, still grieving the loss of some chickadee or other whose death almost knocked him off his game, but not too shook up to set himself up with a few more lucky lovelies whilst tripping his way through another overly complicated and rather sordidly underwhelming plot. This time, some bikers are making dirty movies with minors on the set of a future classic hot-air-balloon movie. Travis falls into the action because a rich old geyser carks it in unusual circumstances and it affects the trust fund of a former marina-mate. And hirsute intellectual Meyer wets his pants towards the end. 

You may sense a fatigued, sardonic note in my precis. It's not that I don't still love John D., it's just that after embarking on the long game that is reading the entire Travis McGee oeuvre, I'm approaching the end and it feels long overdue. It's been fun, it's been enlightening, but it's also been a schlep. With the realisation I might now have fewer years left to me …

The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray

Fup by Jim Dodge

If there was a comfort-food version of a book for me, then this would be it. It's funny, touching, humanistic, and features so many quotable quotes that its trim 120 pages could be represented in its entirety on some such authors' quotations page.

We're introduced to Tiny on the occasion of his mother's death, lured into a treacherously fatal situation by, of all things, a duck, while her 4-year-old son sleeps in the car where he wakes to a terrifying solitude. Meanwhile, we're treated to a potted but entertaining history of Granddaddy Jake, Tiny's grandfather, into whose care by fair means or foul (no pun intended) he is finally placed. But the titular Fup duck comes along only once Tiny is fully grown (and how!). A lost and lonely duckling, much like Tiny, she's discovered shivering in a freshly dug post hole, which betrays the attention paid to it by Tiny's nemesis, a wild hog called Lockjaw, who enjoys tearing up Tiny's fences just as much as he …