November 3, 2009

Monstrous Affection (2009)

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:50 am by The Lyon

Ksenia Gueletina

A Toronto native, David Nickle works as a city-hall journalist as well as a writer. Many of the stories featured in Monstrous Affections have been previously published in other anthologies. The title concise­ly sums up the central theme con­necting the stories, with monstrous affections present in all of them, thus creating a connection between the otherwise different pieces of writing. The works collected in this book were written over a long period of time, and the styles vary widely, as do the character voices and settings.

All the stories are written ex­tremely well, and give a sense of finality and completion that is rare with such short writing. The open­ing story, “The Sloane Men” is the oldest, first published in 1995 and later adapted for a television ser­ies. It’s a vivid, starkly surrealistic tale about liberation, revenge, and choices that question the funda­mental ideas of love. This is a trend, whether it is lust, love for family, or love for one’s hometown, it is present in these stories, just like it is present in everyone’s lives.

The characters are developed to a surprising extent considering that the average length of a story is twenty or thirty pages. The stor­ies are exceptionally realistic and clear, which is surprising for a col­lection of stories with a variety of characters of all ages and genders. What makes this collection remark­able is the ability of the stories to twist normal, everyday occurrences into something worth the name of “speculative fiction.”

David Nickle’s particular talent is a subtle integration of the terrifying and the supernatural into an otherwise ordinary setting, but not relying on the supernatural ele­ments of the story to provide the scare. In “Polyphemus’ Cave,” the residents of the town are just as bad, if not worse than the twenty-foot Cyclops. In an interview, David Nickle said that his stories are done “when I think I, and the character, have drawn some meaning from it” – I can see that he has succeeded admirably on that count. His stories are not simple, and although it takes patience and reflection to unravel their meanings beyond the initial horrified fascination, they are defin­itely worth the effort.

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