2084: Science Fiction Anthology from Unsung Stories

2084: Science Fiction Anthology from Unsung Stories

Unsung Stories launch Kickstarter for new dystopian short story anthology: 2084 

New stories from Christopher Priest, David Hutchinson, Lavie Tidhar, James Smythe, Jeff Noon, Anne Charnock and more.

As the events of 2017 reveal an ever more complex relationship between people and their governments, classic dystopian literature is proving its relevance once again. But as readers turn to classics, like Nineteen Eighty-Four, writers are also looking to our future, and what may lie there.

Unsung Stories have gathered eleven leading science fiction writers who have looked ahead to 2084, as Orwell did in 1948, for a new anthology – writers such as David Hutchinson, Christopher Priest, Lavie Tidhar, James Smythe, Jeff Noon and Anne Charnock, who are already famous for their visions of the near future.

Speaking about the anthology, George Sandison, Managing Editor at Unsung Stories, said, “We knew when we first started work on the anthology that the idea was timely, but the start of 2017 has really hammered home how important writing like this is.

“Dystopian fiction gives us a space in which to explore today’s fears, and the nightmares of society. For many people the events of the last eighteen months have brought those dark futures much closer, so it’s inevitable that we turn to literature to help us understand why.

“The ideas at work in 2084 range from the familiar to the fantastic, but all are bound by a current and relevant sense of what we could lose, what’s at stake. As with Orwell’s work, decades from now, we will be looking back to our stories, to better understand today.”

2084 will be published by Unsung Stories in July 2017 and features leading writers, including Christopher Priest, David Hutchinson, Lavie Tidhar, James Smythe, Anne Charnock and Jeff Noon.

In 1948 Orwell saw a world in flux, at risk of losing liberty so recently won. In response he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four, a prophetic book. Now, in 2017,the themes are still with us.

This anthology of new short stories draws together leading science fiction writers – famous for their visions of our near future – and asks them to look into our future, to the year 2084.

Put humanity on trial as the oceans rise. Slip over borders in a Balkanised Europe. Tread the bizarre streets of cities ruled by memes. See the world through the eyes of drones. Say goodbye to your body as humanity merges with technology.

Warnings or prophesies? The path to Paradise or destruction? Will we be proud of what we have achieved, in 2084?

Our future unfolds before us.

Click here to find out more and support 2084.

Full list of contributors:

Desirina Boskovich

Anne Charnock (Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind and A Calculated Life)

Ian Hocking (Deja Vu)

Dave Hutchinson (The Fractured Europe Sequence)

Cassandra Khaw (Hammers on Bone)

Oliver Langmead (Dark Star and Metronome)

Jeff Noon (Vurt, Automated Alice, Pollen and more)

Christopher Priest (The Prestige, The Dream Archipelago, The Gradual and many more)

James Smythe (The Australia Trilogy, The Echo, The Explorer and more)

Lavie Tidhar (A Man Lies Dreaming, Osama and Central Station)

Aliya Whiteley (The Beauty and The Arrival Of Missives)

About the Publisher:

Unsung Stories publish literary and ambitious speculative fiction that defies expectation. Publishing stories from the varied worlds of genre fiction – science-fiction, fantasy, horror, and all the areas in-between.

RofC Prize Rewards ‘Brilliant & Brave’ Fiction from the Small Presses

RofC Prize Rewards ‘Brilliant & Brave’ Fiction from the Small Presses

‘Small press fiction enables stories, characters and experimentation not found anywhere else in British publishing’ – Neil Griffiths, founder of the Republic of Consciousness Prize

Last night’s inaugural Republic of Consciousness Prize award ceremony was held in the iconic setting of the University of Westminster’s Fyvie Hall, in conjunction with The Contemporary Small Press.  

The prize’s founder Neil Griffiths, who set up and crowdfunded the prize to reward ‘brilliant and brave literary fiction’ being published by small presses ‘who are willing to take risks’ in the UK and Ireland, hosted the evening and spoke about the work of contemporary independent publishers.  He said, ‘I’ve been accused of trying to overthrow the established order of the literary establishment’, and while he readily acknowledged the high quality books that are being published by big publishers, he affirmed that in his opinion ‘the best fiction currently being published in the UK and Ireland is with the small presses.’  He elaborated on this, saying that ‘small press fiction enables stories, characters and experimentation not found anywhere else in British publishing.’  Griffiths explained the awarding process for this year’s prize, saying that there would be one ‘Winner Winner’ and two runners-up: ‘not second and third’.

Winner of the inaugural Republic of Consciousness Prize for fiction from the small presses was Counternarratives by John Keene, published by Fitzcarraldo Editions.  Unanimously voted the overall winner by all six judges, Counternarratives was considered a ‘once in  generation achievement for short form fiction’ and praised for the way that its ‘subject matter, formal inventiveness, multitude of voices, and seriousness of purpose transform a series of thematically linked stories into a complete work of art.’  Accepting the prize,  Jacques Testard from Fitzcarraldo confessed that ‘it’s not easy to publish this kind of fiction in the contemporary British climate’ – another example of the risk-taking innovation of small press publishers as testified by the quality of books selected for the prize.

Testard said: ‘We’re so thrilled that John Keene’s COUNTERNARRATIVES has been awarded the inaugural Republic of Consciousness Prize. First of all, it is a magnificent book and deserves the widest possible readership. The prize is so important for its focus on small presses — it’s tough, in this cultural climate, for risk-taking small presses to achieve visibility for our books. It’s also a unique prize on two other counts: it does not put limitations on what fiction can be in considering short stories, novels and translation together, unlike other prizes in Britain, and in fact it is the only prize which COUNTERNARRATIVES has been eligible for. Less important but remarkable nonetheless, it is a prize that rewards the publisher as well as the author — a welcome, refreshing reversal when many bigger prizes expect a financial contribution from a shortlisted publisher, big or small. Long may it continue.’

Counternarratives
Counternarratives by John Keene, Fitzcarraldo Editions.  Photograph by Sally-Shakti Willow

The two runners-up and winner were announced by The Guardian’s Literary Critic Nicholas Lezard who praised the ‘long and distinguished history of publishing by the small presses.’  The first runner-up to be declared was the novel Martin John by Anakana Schofield, published by And Other Stories about which the judges said, it ‘makes no judgment: it renders Martin John’s world with phenomenological honesty. It is a moral act.’  Joint runner-up was Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones, published by Tramp Press, described by the judges as a novel that ‘sets a new bar for fiction about a family. No other novel we’ve ever read portrays the lived experience of dying with such precision.’

A further category was created for Griffiths’ own criteria of Best First Novel, or ‘Surfeit of Multitudinous Energy’, awarded to writer Paul Stanbridge and publisher Galley Beggar Press for Paul’s novel, Forbidden Line.  Galley Beggar’s Sam Jordison collected the prize with Stanbridge.

Paul Stanbridge and Sam Jordison
Writer Paul Stanbridge and publisher Sam Jordison from Galley Beggar Press.  This photograph and the header image by Becky Danks

‘So much in the literary industry disadvantages small presses, and yet they are publishing the most interesting and innovative current fiction’ Dr Leigh Wilson, The Contemporary Small Press

The Contemporary Small Press’s Dr Leigh Wilson said, ‘We’re delighted to be involved in supporting the prize. So much in the literary industry disadvantages small presses, and yet they are publishing the most interesting and innovative current fiction.’  Organiser Neil Griffiths concluded: ‘I thought it was a wonderful evening. All the presses seemed mutually supportive, and I’m not sure that’s always the case at prize events. I think the key take-out is that small presses really appreciate the emotional support just as much as the chance to win some money’.

The prize was judged by: Sam Fisher of Burley Fisher Books in Hackney; Gary Perry at Foyles; Lyndsy Kirkman from Chapter One Books, Manchester; Gillian Robertson of Looking Glass books, Edinburgh, Marcus Wright and Neil Griffiths.

Congratulations to all the writers and publishers whose books were selected for the Republic of Consciousness Prize long- and short-lists.  

image (1)
The Contemporary Small Press’s Dr Leigh Wilson with prize founder Neil Griffiths.  Photograph by Georgina Colby

Article by Sally-Shakti Willow, Research Assistant for The Contemporary Small Press.

Photographs by Dr Georgina Colby, The Contemporary Small Press; Becky Danks reviewer for The Contemporary Small Press; Sally-Shakti Willow

The Glue Ponys

The Glue Ponys

The Glue Ponys by Chris Wilson: Tangerine Press, 2016 Republic of Consciousness Prize Long List* 

‘Larry was the first to wake up.  It was raining again and with the fever he couldn’t figure out if he was boiling or freezing.  His few remaining teeth were bouncing a tattoo off each other as his jaw played out the rhythm of the infection.’

These perfectly crafted short stories each give a fleeting glimpse into the lives of the transient outsiders whose lives are forged daily on America’s streets, in prisons, in run-down hotels and rusty old cars.  Heroin addiction is a uniting theme that runs like a thread through the highs and lows, the comedy and the tragedy, of each of these instant snapshots of the forgotten and unseen lives just beneath the surface of respectable city life.  Frequent details of places – street names, hotels, city quarters – serve to highlight not only the reality but also the close proximity of people whose existence is so often barely noticed by their parallel city-dwelling counterparts.  The sharing of common space between people whose lives are so vastly alien to one another calls into question the routine invisibility of the stories’ characters and those like them.

Wilson’s prose is measured, well-paced, with a sense of immediacy and brevity that makes every encounter sting with the sharp barb of honesty without sentiment.  These stories are not designed to evoke hand-wringing sympathy or provoke the reader to want to change the world.  They present important stories that Wilson is well-placed to tell, having lived on the streets and in prisons in the US for many years before returning to the UK and becoming drug and crime free in 2001.  The stories present the matter-of-fact realities, told through exceptional prose-fiction, of lives little glimpsed by most readers – each with its own dignity, desire, sadness and humour.

‘But there was another part of her, way down somewhere inside, that just wasn’t going to let her break and it held her and it lifted up her chin so that her eyes met with the eyes of the drivers coming down the freeway and she raised her right arm into the air with her fingers balled up in a fist and stuck her thumb straight up and into the heart of the blue morning sky.’

The Glue Ponys is a book worth reading for many reasons – both its style and its content are fresh and enriching.  In addition to the standard paperback edition, Tangerine Press have also produced a number of limited edition fine press copies of the book: 100 numbered collectors editions and 26 individually produced artwork copies with bespoke artworks by Chris Wilson (now sold out).

Click here to visit The Glue Ponys page on Tangerine Press.

About the Publisher:

Tangerine Press publishes poetry, prose and photography in handbound, limited edition fine press books.

Review by Sally-Shakti Willow

Sally-Shakti Willow is researching for a practice-based PhD in utopian poetics and experimental writing at the University of Westminster, where she also works as research assistant for the Contemporary Small Press.   The Unfinished Dream, an experimental collection of words and images by Sally-Shakti Willow and Joe Evans was published by Sad Press in October 2016.  @willowwriting

Distant Resistance

Distant Resistance
Despite the almost impossible brevity of each of these stories, it’s taken me a long time to read Diane Williams’ Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine partly due to my hesitation to start writing this review. The stories are unsettling.  An endorsement on the back cover tells us that ‘The uncanny has met its ideal delivery system’; another states that Williams’ work is ‘not for first reading but for periodic immersions in a world perfectly real but strange’.  Both of these statements encapsulate the strange otherness of these stories and their ability to bring us closer to ourselves through the oblique lens of familiar estrangement. But perhaps neither explicitly addresses the thing I personally found most troubling.
‘She had been lucky in love as she understood it. And that night – some progress to report. Something exciting afoot. She has a quarter hour more to live.’
For me, the upper-class voice and vocabulary created a character with whom I found it difficult to empathise and identify. I found the tone of Claire-Louise Bennett’s Pond similarly problematic to assimilate. Both Williams and Bennett have created collections of discomfiting short stories with unsettlingly aloof upper-middle class narrators whose narration resists empathy and affect almost entirely. Williams, with her sharp and caustic brevity and her focus on an accumulation of unrelated episodes within a single ‘story’ seems to have perfected the style.
finefrontsmall
As a prolific reader, I’m used to fictions that engender empathy and identification with, and assimilation of, the narrator’s character as part of the unconscious process of reading that I’ve been practising since childhood. But Williams’ characters and narrators in this collection are not designed to be empathised with – they present disconcerting everyday experiences with which we might identify, in a way that’s designed to be distant and aloof, a way that prevents our easy assimilation of another life as our own and holds us at an uncomfortable distance. This is not a fiction that we can consume in colonial fashion, incorporating its riches as we gorge ourselves on the text. It holds us off, and that’s an unsettling experience in narrative fiction.
At the same time, the stories open us out onto ourselves. Asking us to sit with that twingeing irritation that Virginia Woolf described as located impossibly between the shoulder blades in An Unwritten Novel. Showing us the things that we find most troubling because we know they’re also part of ourselves but we can’t quite convince ourselves to acknowledge them, let alone reach through to alleviate them. So they sit there, troubling: resisting both assimilation and alleviation, just being there as a patch of rough and broken skin at the edges of our consciousness.
‘In a luncheonette that I took cover in, I overheard, “Yes, I do mind …” – this, while I was raising and re-arranging memories of many people’s personal details, tryst locales, endearments – faces, genitalia, like Jimmy T’s, or Lee’s, which I pine for.’
It’s a consummate skill to be able to produce this sort of resistance in a reader, when every literary convention dictates empathy and identification.
As global and national politics becomes increasingly defined by grotesque hyperbole and empty excess, literature is demonstrating its razor-edged potential for the subversive through its movement towards the understatement. Even Williams’ idiosyncratic crisp, upper-class vocabulary feels essential here: language like this enables us to explore thoughts of increasing subtlety and complexity, and to risk losing that suddenly feels chilling beyond measure.
The Poet
‘She carves with a sharply scalloped steel blade, makes slices across the top of a long, broad loaf of yeasted bread for the dog who begs and there’s a cat there, too.  
She holds the loaf against her breast and presses it up under her chin. But this is no violin! Won’t she sever her head?’
About the Publisher:
CB editions publishes short fiction, poetry, translations and other work which, as the Guardian noted, ‘might otherwise fall through the cracks between the big publishers’.
Review by Sally-Shakti Willow
Sally-Shakti Willow is researching for a practice-based PhD in utopian poetics and experimental writing at the University of Westminster, where she also works as research assistant for the Contemporary Small Press.  Sally’s poetry is included in the #NousSommesParis anthology from Eyewear Books; the experimental collection The Unfinished Dream by Sally-Shakti Willow and Joe Evans was published by Sad Press in October 2016.  @willowwriting
*The Contemporary Small Press is celebrating the first ever Republic of Consciousness Prize for small presses by reviewing a range of titles from the long- and short-lists throughout early 2017.  The Republic of Consciousness Prize was established by writer Neil Griffiths to support and reward adventurous new fiction published by small presses in the UK and Ireland.  The judges have selected some of the most exciting and innovative new fiction to highlight through their long- and short-lists, demonstrating the breadth and depth of high-quality literary fiction currently being published by small and independent presses.  The winner will be announced at an award-ceremony held in conjunction with the Contemporary Small Press at the University of Westminster in March.

Prelude to Oblivion

Prelude to Oblivion

Solar Bones by Mike McCormack: Tramp Press, 2016 – Republic of Consciousness Prize Short List*

‘The living and the dead stood shoulder to shoulder sharing a joke and a fag’

On All Souls’ Day when the dead are honoured, Marcus Conway is feeling pensive. A dependable family man and successful engineer, he is reflecting on what he has achieved so far. He also happens to be dead. Whilst pottering around the house he recalls past triumphs and set-backs, unaware that he is the lead character in his own ghost story. The reader is invited to step inside the mind of a recently deceased man as his life slowly flashes before his eyes.

 

Written entirely as a stream of consciousness by this central character, a unique insight is provided into his thoughts. A spiritual man who trained as a priest before choosing marriage and fatherhood, Marcus is nevertheless oblivious to his own death as he sits at the kitchen table. His familiar surroundings feel slightly off kilter for reasons he cannot quite put his finger on.

Set in Mayo in the West of Ireland during the economic crash of 2008, the precarious nature of global financial stability prompts Marcus to re-examine those certainties on which he has built his life. Current colossal shifts in world politics following the US election and Brexit mean that this context deeply resonates. Here is a man suddenly keenly aware of a vast, wider history unfolding as concepts seemingly far removed from individuals’ lives threaten to pull the rug from under them. In a familiarly unsettling time, such rapid insecurity is major enough to disturb Marcus on a personal level. He realises the huge responsibility citizens have in voting for change and ultimately the shared blame when things go wrong.

‘What did you expect electing such clowns to public office?’

solar-bones-cropped-cover-335x505

Solar Bones is a love letter to family life and an outstanding achievement by ground-breaking writer Mike McCormack. Experimental in style and almost entirely devoid of traditional punctuation, there are no chapters and not a single full stop. Far from being off-putting, this enables the internal monologue to flow very naturally. It is full of those supposedly mundane details which make up a life and are infused with meaning, like the cheese sandwich lovingly made just the way he likes it by his wife. Memories and observations topple over one another, from his artist daughter writing in her own blood on the walls of her exhibition to early childhood conversations with his father.

The reader is encouraged to invest emotionally by joining Marcus at pivotal moments in his life and so when it finally comes, the intense, brutal impact of his death feels like the loss of a friend. Comparisons to Joyce’s Ulysses are inevitable and deserved, as intimate minutiae fill a story that ultimately spans just one November day yet covers a lifetime through its internal monologue. Subtle and poetic, Solar Bones is an emotive reading experience that moved me to tears and a novel as beautiful as it is original.

‘Hand on my heart, I can say I died in that layby’

 

About the Publisher:

Tramp Press is a new, independent Irish publishing house committed to promoting unique literary voices and books of the highest quality. They aim to ‘encourage, support and maintain Ireland’s literary talent, and to enrich the lives of readers’.

Review by Becky Danks:

Becky is an avid reader, creative writer, dog lover, poet, and reviewer of books.  Among other things! She was recently shortlisted for the Verve Poetry Festival Prize 2017. Follow her on Twitter: @BeckyD123

*The Contemporary Small Press is celebrating the first ever Republic of Consciousness Prize for small presses by reviewing a range of titles from the long- and short-lists throughout early 2017.  The Republic of Consciousness Prize was established by writer Neil Griffiths to support and reward adventurous new fiction published by small presses in the UK and Ireland.  The judges have selected some of the most exciting and innovative new fiction to highlight through their long- and short-lists, demonstrating the breadth and depth of high-quality literary fiction currently being published by small and independent presses.  The winner will be announced at an award-ceremony held in conjunction with the Contemporary Small Press at the University of Westminster in March.

A Generation of Renters Not Buyers

A Generation of Renters Not Buyers

Treats by Lara Williams: Freight Books, 2016 – Republic of Consciousness Prize short list*

Alazia is the fear that you are no longer able to change.

In this debut collection of short stories, Lara Williams beautifully captures relatable, disillusioned, yet wistfully hopeful characters, often on the cusp of adulthood, looking over the edge and hoping not to fall, but fly. These characters traipse through a daunting landscape of entangled relationships, problematic life choices, the “controlled explosions” and negotiations of love, and the harsh realities of what can only be described as “settling”– of letting go of childhood dreams and infinite possibilities – as one day university ends and suddenly “It Begins”; the unnerving stage in which one is left to flounder and learn how to paddle once more. On the other hand, many of the characters demonstrate a propensity for going against the grain in quiet protest at “settling”, with little daily rebellions against the unfair world of “morning people,” those who are careless, judge others, or want to place individuals in a box. The reader hears the screaming thoughts from minds not content with conformity nor a life already mapped out and ready for one to simply join the dots. These are the stories of the unsettled, trying to settle for a life not quite the way it was imagined.

Triumph over adversity, life felt like a series of small battles, of smaller wins, twisting and mutating, always, into something else.

treats_-270

“Treats” becomes a misleading, sceptical, almost mocking title, as these characters are often far from treating themselves or being treated right by others. The short story entitled “Treats” follows the musings of a woman “imagining the world fluent in a silent language of kindness”, a tender thought, but one that she seems forever excluded from, never receiving this kindness in return. She endearingly surprises others with little acts of anonymous kindness, like buying another’s cinema ticket or cup of coffee, and yet she lives in a world populated by those who are careless towards her. In the end she treats herself, a lesson we might all learn from – rather than expecting to be treated right by others, we should learn to treat ourselves right first.

Life, Ray had decided, was exchanging one type of chaos for another.

Williams’ female characters express the “gender melancholia” of a young generation, as Morag states, “We got that wrong,’ […] ‘we got food wrong. We got sex wrong. We’re the generation that got a lot of stuff wrong.’” A generation of desperate choices – “Pilates and Prozac?” – when “it feels like it is raining, everywhere, inside.” These characters live in quiet discontent as their minds dance around daydreams and thoughts that never reach the surface, let alone become communicated to others. Williams’ embeds beautiful poetic reflections amongst the mundane daily rituals of people trying to live. In an understated, often witty and subtle way, the female characters grapple with a thematic undercurrent of feminist issues and concerns, in which one character relays the question posed to her as she remembers how she would “say things to Dora, treat her in a certain way and you would ask, would I do this differently if she were a boy? The answer, invariably, was yes.” The conclusion is that “Girls grew up afraid”, particularly afraid of taking up space, and in the twenty-first century this is still the case. These stories are filled with small triumphs, as the characters indulge in reclaiming their space, mainly in private, and relishing the treats they find for themselves.

Throughout these twenty-one stories I hear the fragments of characters who are desperate to live and feel alive again, finding themselves in moments of questioning in which they reflect and realise that the life they have lived so far is not the one they wish to continue living. In “Here’s to You”, Williams amusingly captures the fed up, exasperated feeling one has when they have reached a suspiciously unsolid rock bottom, unsure as to whether there is further to fall or not. Aahna is attempting to piece her life back together, living at her mother’s after the break-up of her previous relationship and the gradual dissolution of her life. After an awkward, yet not entirely unsuccessful date, she finds herself pondering:

She didn’t know what she wanted and she never had; her wants extended everywhere, inside and out, up and down; an undulating blob of non-specific desire.

What the hell did she want? What did anyone?

She sighed the long sigh of a life of never quite being enough.

 And sometimes these characters, with a refreshing honesty and all too familiar state of mind, just have to hope that the phrase “Sling enough shit at the wall and something’s got to stick” is true. They all suffer from the dreaded state of “alazia” and wonder what is truly enough for them; always wanting more. If I had any complaint as a reader, it is that I too desire more – I want to know more about these characters and continue reading more; the stories connect intricately through their use of certain images, phrases and character traits, which makes this collection such an enriching read. The little treat of momentarily viewing these characters’ lives, like a fly on the wall, stayed with me, almost as a relief that I am not the only one who’s trying to figure things out and is still not quite there. I recommend treating yourself to this collection.

About the Publisher:

Freight Books is an independent publisher focused on high quality fiction for an English speaking readership, committed to publishing work by established writers, brilliant debuts, short story collections, forgotten classics, occasional novels-in-translation and, from time to time, poetry collections.

Review by Isabelle Coy-Dibley

Isabelle Coy-Dibley is a PhD student at the University of Westminster, where her research predominantly considers inscriptions of the female body within women’s experimental writing. 

 

*The Contemporary Small Press is celebrating the first ever Republic of Consciousness Prize for small presses by reviewing a range of titles from the long- and short-lists throughout early 2017.  The Republic of Consciousness Prize was established by writer Neil Griffiths to support and reward adventurous new fiction published by small presses in the UK and Ireland.  The judges have selected some of the most exciting and innovative new fiction to highlight through their long- and short-lists, demonstrating the breadth and depth of high-quality literary fiction currently being published by small and independent presses.  The winner will be announced at an award-ceremony held in conjunction with the Contemporary Small Press at the University of Westminster in March.

 

Without Destination or Intent

Without Destination or Intent

Forbidden Line by Paul Stanbridge: Galley Beggar Press, 2016 – Republic of Consciousness Prize Short List*

‘This is not a casserole we are making here, it is a philosophical work.’

A pair of misfits set out on an adventure into notoriety and oblivion. Don is a writer who hates writing and his downtrodden servant, Is, has recently been struck by lightning. Prepare to laugh out loud as, dressed in rabbit skins to give them the appearance of prehistoric men, this eccentric duo embark on a riotously entertaining odyssey with the emphasis firmly on the odd.

With no map to direct them or conscious idea of their destination, Don and Is go round in circles, frequently ending up back where they started. Undeterred, they eventually make a peculiar path across Essex and into London, analysing along the way what it means to be alive in the world. Travelling on foot, by boat, and on other people’s shoulders, these intrepid adventurers spend a lot of time in the pub, join what they think is an alternative community of Druids, get intimidated by a gang of cows, and sleep in a graveyard, amongst other things. There are also several altercations with the police.

‘Without destination or intent – onwards!’

forbiddenlinemassfrontboard

It is not always clear which, if either, is the wiser of the two protagonists. Don certainly thinks he is right about everything and his grandiose aim is the ‘salvation of Being’. A self-proclaimed expert on many bizarre subjects, he likes to question the fundamental norms of society, speaking with authority but not always sense. Is, like the reader, does not always know what his master is going on about. On occasion a witty and shrewd observer, he takes Don’s waffling in his stride and often brings him down a peg or two with well-timed quips. Inspirational messages do, however, emerge sporadically from amidst the absurdities Don spouts, such as his respect for mindfulness and desire to live in the now.

The characters are often at the mercy of the all-seeing (and meddling) narrator, who takes great offence at Don’s attitude to writing and manipulates the story to punish him. Pursued by a crowd of thousands who mistakenly believe them to be their leaders, the purpose of their trip having been mistaken for a re-enactment of the 14th century Peasants’ Revolt, Don and Is face an ongoing battle to regain control over the chaos.

‘The reader can rest assured that a story will very soon be dragged out of all this nonsense…Read on!’

Intricately detailed and daringly innovative, Forbidden Line is a book unlike any other. The reader is swept into the story, drifting alongside the two strange friends with no idea where the narrative is heading. Don and Is bring to mind an eclectic mix of double acts as random as Blackadder and Baldrick, Dogberry and Verger, and Doc Brown and Marty McFly. The prose is witty and elaborate and the story has a timeless quality to it. So much so that the rare reminders that it is set in the contemporary age come as a bit of a shock, the reverie rudely interrupted by passing cars and mobile phones.

The ambitiously complex way of writing occasionally results in the story tying itself up in knots and it is certainly a challenging read. But this book is a magnificent accomplishment by the ground-breaking author Paul Stanbridge.  Thought-provoking, perplexing, vivid and surreal, this is a laugh-out-loud funny tour de force and definitely one to watch out for.

Click here to buy Forbidden Line directly from Galley Beggar Press.

About the Publisher

Galley Beggar Press is committed to producing beautiful books. Nurturing unique and innovative writers and publishing works of the highest quality and integrity, they also believe in the ‘fantastic potential of ebooks to reach new audiences, to spread our writers’ precious words around the world and to revive and revitalise books that would otherwise either be out of print or lost on the backlist’.

About the Reviewer

Becky Danks is an avid reader, creative writer, dog lover, poet and reviewer of books. Amongst other things! Follow her on Twitter: @BeckyD123

 *The Contemporary Small Press is celebrating the first ever Republic of Consciousness Prize for small presses by reviewing a range of titles from the long- and short-lists throughout early 2017.  The Republic of Consciousness Prize was established by writer Neil Griffiths to support and reward adventurous new fiction published by small presses in the UK and Ireland.  The judges have selected some of the most exciting and innovative new fiction to highlight through their long- and short-lists, demonstrating the breadth and depth of high-quality literary fiction currently being published by small and independent presses.  The winner will be announced at an award-ceremony held in conjunction with the Contemporary Small Press at the University of Westminster in March.