Imagined Slights by James Lovegrove
Review by Sandra Scholes
Known for his novels Days, The Foreigners and The Hope, James Lovegrove treats readers to his collection of fantasy and sf stories that are far ranging than thought. He has unusual ideas for histories, but has a clever way of working them into his stories to make them believable. Readers will be amazed at how highly original each of these stories are.
Though they are very readable, I do have a few favourites I thought worth mentioning: Wings has Az living in Cloudcap City, but unlike the other kids at school around him, he doesn't have the one thing he wants, wings and longs for the time when he could have them. Wings is a wish fulfilment story full of woe, and hope everlasting - it is one of many in this anthology that can bring a tear to the readers eye.
Britworld is a cautionary tale of the future and what would happen if our world was no more; only a virtual trip played out for wealthy future traders. Britworld itself is as cliché as it gets, but it illustrates the point that if we don't look after this planet, the different cities of the world will be nothing more than phoney scripts played out to a cringing audience. In this case, the world has been abused and is no more, and off- worlders from other planets can pay out for a tour in Britworld where the building they are in is climate controlled for London, both old and new. Wanda May June is the tour guide who provides some of the clichés and announces each one of the stops on the tour which are cringe worthy enough.
In Dead Letters Bert works at the Post Office, and has done so for many years, but he knows at some point they will want rid of him,leaving him another older man on the scrap heap of life. He is wrong in his assumption though, as he is instead sent to the Dead Letter Office. There he is in charge of undelivered or undeliverable mail. After a while, the job bores him and he starts to open the letters he gets sent, but one is addressed as "Dearest There," and catches his eye over all the others. He never realised he had a darling at the office, and ponders over who might be playing a trick on him, but soon understands that no one else could have sent the letter - it would be impossible as no one ever owns up to having done it. Lovegrove writes with heartfelt words, and brings out the feelings of loneliness one man might feel in that kind of job.
A Taste of Heaven sees Mark who hasn't seen his homeless friend, Harold at the shelter for a while. He starts to get worried about him,and wonders if he is alive, hurt, ill, or dead? He has no answers to these questions but he has faith that he might show up again at some point. He does worry though as he has seen many transients like Harold go missing and die as a result of moving on during a particularly strong bout of heavy winter weather. Known for his tall tales, Mark thinks he is likely to tell another one once they meet again, but the tale Harold tells is the complete and total truth, and this throws him.
Thanatophile Seeks Similar explores the darker side of the human mind with Alice who has read about her perfect man. He is every Goth’s dream guy and is the dark man of her dreams too. He likes black clothes, and goes on about death all day long. She is mesmerised by the advert in the newspaper, and toys with the notion of whether to meet him or not. She soon takes the initiative and writes to him identifying with his philosophy, but she wonders whether he will write back. This story is dark fantasy at its best as it shows the very depth of the human character, maybe even its soul. Lovegrove gives the reader a glimpse of what Alice's life is like, she lives with Monica who is a nosey type who often wants to know what is in the mail she gets, and teases her too. It is a heartfelt story told from Alice's point of view with her perfect man and Monica's views thrown into the mix. The two characters are dark, but for good reason; they have both dealt with bad things in their lives, and have come to become morbid about life in general. The ending is unexpected yet dramatic and what happens near the end tends to break the flow.
Imagined Slights are stories that act like pieces of possible worlds, some like ours, while others show what could be and what are. They are well-written and entertaining. Not since Neil Gaiman has there been a writer who can work his ideas into so many different stories and encourage others to read them.
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