Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Unpossible and Other Stories by Daryl Gregory

Daryl Gregory has been one of my favourite discoveries of the past couple of years. I've read two of his novels, Pandemonium and Raising Stony Mayhall and fallen quite in love with them. This time, I was settling down to read his short stories, and by far and large, I enjoyed them quite a lot. But there's also a way in which what I like most about this author is better displayed in longer formats.

See, what I've been most struck by is Gregory's ability to take an idea and keep pushing it past the bounds. There are moments where he's set out something fascinating, and it feels like that would be the story for most authors, but he invariably presses on into what the implications of this revelation would be, taking ideas about demonic possession and about zombies into strange metaphysical spaces I could never have imagined. I've loved every minute of that.

Short stories, by definition, are short. And so, while we have the same provocative ideas I've enjoyed, and some themes that are truly right up my alley, there isn't room for that kind of further extrapolation. Don't get me wrong. These are good short stories. It's just that I almost always want to know what Gregory would have done with this idea next, after the story ends.

It's not a bad problem to have. On the other hand, these are really good short stories. Many of them are about intersections between medicine and faith, and truly, when you get into those territories, I am right there with you. Others are meta-tales about superheroes and supervillains, and the shape of the world around them.

The stories about faith and medicine were probably my very favourite, and he takes medical ideas and interweaves them with people just beautifully. The story about prions and belief, "Damascus," took my breath away - it was both truly terrifying and incredibly intriguing. I felt for the main character even as her actions horrified me.

The first story in the book, "Second Person, Present Tense," about the illusion of consciousness, was similarly mind-bending. The couple about superheroes and villains were a lot of fun, and it's hard to not see small echoes of "The Illustrated Biography of Lord Grimm," the story in which the working class in the country of the supervillain still have to go to work the next day, even when the superheroes attack, in Segovia in the most recent Avengers movie.

These are stories about damaged people, about people trying to find something to believe in, even if it's just in themselves as beings. The ideas are great, but they're rooted in really strong characters as well - these are not the type of stories that use ideas as substitutes for people. These are ideas being played out through people, and who those people are is intrinsically crucial to how they develop.

In other words, these are really good short stories. But they make me long for a full-length novel, and I hope to get to a few more of Gregory's novels soon. I haven't been disappointed yet in his work, and frequently mind-blown.

No comments:

Post a Comment