Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Short Story Corner! ‘Muriel’ and ‘Torment’

Because that’s the way my reading seems to have gone these last couple of days; either reading a short story in a genre magazine or focussing on the bits I haven’t read in an omnibus collection. It has made for a really nice change actually; I’m going through one of my phases of not really being able to get into anything (entirely down to me, not the books I’m picking up) so reading something that’s only a few pages long meant that I could finish it before the apathy kicked in. I reckon you might just see a few more short stories showing up here in the future.
What short stories have I been reading then...?

‘Muriel’ – David Moody

I might be wrong here (although I don’t think I am) but the only way you’re going to be able to read ‘Muriel’ is if you pick up one of the few remaining copies of the ‘SFX Zombie Special’ that are still on the shelves. The magazine itself is a bit pricy but if you like zombies then you’ll find yourself picking it up anyway I’m sure. I did and I’ve had a lot of fun reading it :o)

Moody already has strong zombie form for his ‘Autumn’ series which had a massive following (thanks to free downloads) before Gollancz took it on board. I’ve reviewed a couple of the books Here and Here if you fancy a look. He was perhaps an obvious choice then to contribute a story, for the ‘Zombie Special’ and the decision definitely paid off as far as I was concerned. The setting is aligned a little more closely with the ‘traditional’ zombie apocalypse than Moody is known for (‘Autumn’ looks at the zombie apocalypse in perhaps a slightly more thoughtful way) but Moody does still manage to showcase the kind of character development that he does so well. Chris Wilkins (our hero) is full of how great he is at surviving the zombie apocalypse but there’s still one more lesson for him to learn and it might just kill him. It’s the way that Moody delivers this lesson that makes the story work the way it does, changing the tone from being rather smug to one where Chris is suddenly incapable of saving his own life. Without giving too much away, I enjoyed the way in which the tables are turned on Chris again and again; he really isn’t as smart as he thinks he is and we also learn a lesson that overconfidence can be deadly.

Above all though, Moody shows us that the zombie apocalypse is an intensely personal affair and you must embrace that if you are to stand any chance of surviving. Cutting yourself off can do more harm than good...

‘Torment’ – Anthony Reynolds

If you scroll down the page, just a little bit, you will see the cover art for the ‘Word Bearers Omnibus’; ‘Torment’ is the short story that sits right at the end of this collection. As such, it’s pretty clear that you need to have at least read ‘Dark Creed’ if you’re going to get the most out of ‘Torment’; the tale stands well enough on its own but there’s so much more background waiting for you to get your teeth into it.

Again, I can’t give too much away (especially if you haven’t read ‘Dark Creed’) but ‘Torment’ is essentially a ‘chase story’ that asks a pretty big question of both its main character and the reader; what is real and what is our ‘hero’ running away from? The answer is pretty clear, or is it...? If you’ve read ‘Dark Creed’ then you’ll know for sure (maybe) but that end note of uncertainty is delicious nevertheless. The chase sequence is both exciting and nightmarish all at the same time. The Basilica of Torment brims over with all that is dark and hideous, run through with an air of religious devotion that has been twisted into something utterly wrong. We’re talking imagery that you will find sat behind your eyelids long after you finish the actual story. All of this is punctuated with action sequences that show you all too clearly that the only thing tougher than a Space Marine is a Space Marine that has been bonded with a daemon of the Warp... ‘Torment’ is a dark and powerful read that I think all fans of this particular series will enjoy.


Bets Davies said...

Geez. You've made this hard for me. I really can't resist any zombie apocolypse lit. And I'm curious to see what you seem to center on--character development. See, it's hard because I hate short stories. Of course, with a few, brilliant exceptions. I don't like writing in the format. I don't like reading it. In general, they come of shallow and sterile to me. It is, from my scant experience in trying, really hard to fit the sort of character delving I like (and I mean digging to china) in a short story. It is arguable that I wrote short stories in college, but that was when I was moving towards my interest in memoir, so the characters were all me. That sounds cliché for college but a) I knew I was doing it and strived for it. I didn't hide events and ended up a series of chapters that lead me towards an MFA in the same and b) I still firmly believe that everything anyone writers is about some aspect of their own life. It is inescapable.

David Moody said...

Thanks for the positive words about Muriel, Graeme.

You're right, the story is only available in the SFX Zombie Special for now (which, as you say, is well worth picking up). I think the long term plan is for it to go up on the SFX website once the mag has run its course.

Glad you enjoyed it!