This is a really nice moment in South African fiction writing to have on your shelf. I always get excited by short story collections from authors whose work I haven’t read yet, especially when those are local authors who are writing now. Going through the 9 stories in the Pretoria Writers Group project: Storm (volumes 1 and 2) was a really enjoyable experience. This is not to say I fell in love with every story in the book, because the point of anthologies is to have something for everyone, not everything for only one type of reader. I’m glad I read every story though, and that is not something I can say about everything I read. What’s particularly lovely is being able to see the beautiful development in writers voices that has taken place between volumes 1 and 2. That’s not an insight into the practise of the craft that ordinary readers often get.
But you’re not really interested in most of that, are you Internet? The point of a review is so that you can figure out whether this book might be for you or not. So here goes.
There’s a lot of range here, across and within genre. The slice-of-life stories range from the surreal and unsettling “A girl called Storm” by Richard T Wheeler, through the painfully dark “Dandelions for Mother” by Vanessa Wright, and gritty and deeply emplaced “Dahlias and Daisies” by Carmen Botman to “Once Upon a Storm” by Charmaine Lines (great name for an author by the by) and Linze Brandon’s “Cutting Horizon” both of which walk through incredibly dark places in people’s lives, but always towards the promise of a lighter horizon.
Science Fiction is also well represented, spanning the delightfully silly “Storm in a Teacup” by Vanessa Wright, the thought-provoking bridge to a larger work: Linze Brandon “reGENESIS” and the rich and accessible “The Icarus Curse” by Carmen Botman. From relatively hard to s’more soft, there’s a good deal of scope.
Finally some local high fantasy is represented in both of Natalie Rivener’s works, the magical and strange world built for “Beyond” and the politically driven Mage-academy of “The Gravic Exacerbation”.
All of the stories, as the title promises us, weave a storm in some sense, into the narrative, but far more interesting to me was the way in which the authors navigate the South Africanness, choosing to integrate it, or not to, into their voices. There is a diversity of approaches here. Good food for thought for young (and I mean in experience rather than age) local writers.
So, who do I recommend this book to?
1. Genre fans of fantasy and sci-fi who want some local flavour integrated into their reading
2. Fans of the local story-telling scene.
3. People writing or learning to write.
If you are looking for perfectly honed skills, craft work that is beyond perfection or narrative structures that redefine the genre, go and buy World’s Best SF for this year. However, if you are more interested in entertaining local content and easy to read short stories. Pick yourself up a copy of Storm.