Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: Bits of the Dead

Ed. Keith Gouveia, 2008, Coscom Entertainment

‘Flash’ fiction – that is, stories that run to only between 50-500 words – can be a bit of a mixed bag. There’s a real knack to – and not a little difficulty in - presenting a clear central idea, together with bare bones plot and characterisation, plus a strong conclusion, without the luxury of a larger word count in which to develop all these aspects. At worst, flash fiction can be boring and obvious; the presentation only of a concept, without any attempt to dress it up in fictional finery, like reading a 500-word movie synopsis. At best, though, flash fiction delivers a real ‘wow’ – a fully-formed vignette with a single, strong idea that becomes the story itself, and delivers an ending that stays with the reader afterwards, usually a twist or shock conclusion. Australia’s own AntipodeanSF is one example of a publication with a well-deserved reputation for quality flash fiction; and now, too, we have Bits of the Dead.

Bits of the Dead is a quirky little, zombie-themed, flash fiction collection, featuring entries by Piers Anthony, Tim Waggoner, Nancy Kilpatrick, Adam-Troy Castro, Steven Savile, and a host of other authors well known for their genre work. There’s a remarkable breadth of diversity here, given the apparent restrictions of the topic (dead folk walkin'); there are tales terrifying and humorous, prose plain and poetic, and any number of cross-genre offerings, nearly all of which are extremely satisfying to read. The greyscale interior drawings by Sean Simmons also run the gamut from silly to scary (some are really quite disturbing, without being openly horrific), and the production quality of the collection rivals that of some major publishers.

A really fun read. Highly recommended.

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