Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Loney

The Loneyby Andrew Michael Hurley

I started reading this book believing it to be a traditional horror story. By the time I realised it wasn’t quite what I expected, I had been gripped by the dark and poetic prose and wonderfully portrayed characters. There is an undercurrent of mystery and fear throughout the book, but it never quite gets to the high-tension you would expect from the likes of Herbert or King.

Instead, The Loney mixes faith, suspicion and psychology in such a way I found the book difficult to put down. Each page leads the reader deeper and deeper into the mysteries that surround the people and places that inhabit this book.

The Loney itself is an isolated stretch of the Lancashire coastline that seems to exist in a permanent winter. It is where Father Wilfred leads his annual pilgrimage from his London parish. The dark and brooding atmosphere of the place permeates the buildings and the people who inhabit it. 

From the first brooding page to the last, The Loney is a great story and an encouraging debut from a new and exciting writer. Andrew Hurley’s style is easy but immersive. I was immediately drawn into the lives of these ordinary people who find themselves dipping into a word completely beyond their comprehension. 

A really good book and one I would unhesitatingly recommend.

Monsters and Medics

Monsters and Medicsby James White

I first read Monsters and Medics as a teenager having borrowed it from my local library. At the time, I read a lot of short story collections, virtually all of which I have long since forgotten. But there was something about this particular book that stuck in my mind. I re-read it a few years later, borrowing it again from the same library.

Now, having tracked down a copy I have given it a third reading, and it is still as fresh as it was the first time around. The longest and most popular of the stories in the book is Second Ending, which is actually the only one I remember and the main reason I wanted to read the book again. 

In Second Ending the reader follows the story of the last living man on planet Earth. But whilst he may be the last human being, he is not exactly alone. Coming to terms with his status takes some time, but with the help of the Deep Sleep chamber, time is one thing he has plenty of. Once Ross learns the truth about what has happened whilst he has been “sleeping”, he turns his mind towards trying to rebuild the world around him.

It is an imaginative and compelling tale, unlike most modern science fiction (it was first published in 1961). There are no enemies for Ross to fight, no evil empires or plagues to thwart; just a lone man using the tools he finds around him to create a word he can live in.

The other stories in this collection: Counter Security, Dogfight, Nuisance Value, and In Loving Memory, are all great stories on their own right, each looking at the human side of Science Fiction. 

For me, Second Ending is a stand out story. It has a great narrative and an inspiring message. The book, if you can get your hands on a copy, is well worth a read by anyone with an interest in science or fiction.

Summer in the City

Summer in the Cityby Pauline McLynn

Take any suburban street in any city and it you will find a microcosm of society. From the ubiquitous average family to the eccentric or plain barmy, they will all be there somewhere. And it’s because of this we can relate to the strangely bizarre set of characters for whom Farewell Square is home.

There are a lot of characters introduced very quickly and at first I found it difficult to work out who was who and what their role was. But Pauline McLynn’s gloriously captivating narrative very soon made it all very clear. 

Farewell Square is one of those small cul-de-sacs that from the outside seem idyllic in their Victorian splendour. But behind every door is a tale of unfulfilled promise, unimaginable pain and unrequited passions. Each of the characters in this witty and thoughtful romp is brought face to face with their personal demons with the help of Lucy, the interloper in the Nissan Micra. Just why Lucy has taken up residence in the Square, living out of her unsuitably small car is just one of the mysteries that make this such a great read.

Pauline McLynn writes simple witty stories that are non-the-less thoughtful and captivating. Her style, and the wonderful characters she creates to populate her books make her work more than run of the mill. Summer In The City has moments of great comedy alongside heart-breaking sadness. It is an easy, relaxing read, but also one that makes interesting and thought provoking look at suburban life and the often ludicrous priorities of modern living. 

In poking around the sadness that lies beneath the surface of these very ordinary seeming characters, we can laugh at their absurdity, but also consider how we are perceived by others.