Unicorn One: When Scotland sends their first rocket out to explore the Solar system, they send not a scientist or a technician but a hairdresser.
Late Testing: Although the Great War has forced modernity on the cities, in the depths of the country people still believe in witches.
Napoleon’s Child: A team is sent to check on the state of a series of mysterious beacons deep in the desert, but all their operator cares about is a native child who wandered in from the night.
At The Edge of The Known World: A girl watches a cruel Ringmaster struggle to control the circus.
The Magenta Tapestry: With the end of the USSR bringing economic collapse as well as freedom, the inhabitants of a decaying mansion cannot ignore an offer from the Russian Mafia.
The Airman: The last flight of a WWII bomber pilot echoes down history to a descendant of a pilot.
The Pond: a millionaire meets with his lawyer to discuss the purchase of a theatre, but reveals a different goal.
The Orange Pig: shunned by other pigs for his unnatural colour, the orange pig dreams of a greater destiny.
Storm Damage: a man tries to claim on insurance for damage to his father’s farm.
Sometimes All The World Comes Down: a man sees wild animals walking among the remnants of civilisation, but are his perceptions accurate?
Apart from Late Testing and The Airman, each of the stories is told from the point of view of a single character, giving a both flawed and human perspective on events. Whether the plot turns on the threat of death or a burst drain pipe, the real events of each story occur in the head of the narrators.
As well as the solid characterisation, each story is written in fluid prose which references – but is not constrained by – the conventions of the respective genres. Where the events are fantastical the story is equally strong as genre fiction and magical realism.
Although each story is both a fragment of a unique life set in an individual universe, all the stories also comment on the self-delusion and pretension of society in various ways. From the desperate reverse elitism of Unicorn One to the pettiness of grudges in The Pond, no-one escapes their own imperfections.
Overall I enjoyed this book greatly. I would recommend it particularly to people who enjoy character-driven stories and those seeking an example of creating flawed narrators.
I received a free copy of this book.