I’ve not read a short story collection for a long while so, as it turns out Shades of Grey, was a perfect choice – because it is fantastic!
I read quite a lot and I have to say that it has been a long time since I found myself so ‘transported’ by a book – to the point that the descriptions and world built in the story feel so alive and real that I feel I could turn my head and actually see what the character is looking at – but that was a regular sensation when I was reading this.
So…what about the stories themselves?
Shades of Grey – Thrust into the tortured mind of an intelligence officer undergoing interrogation the story propels you through this flawed character’s disturbing life and memories in a interesting stream of consciousness style. I liked the erratic jumps through time, which felt right for the character and situation he’s in. The frequent f*%$ language also fitted with the situation. It’s a bit of a roller-coaster ride and reminded me a little of books I’ve read in this genre (Ian Flemming, Robert Ludlum). What is done particularly well is the dissection of the main character’s mind – it felt very realistic and vivid.
There and Back Again – Where Shades of Grey takes you deep inside someone’s mind, There and Back Again takes you into the world of war. Although you again get inside the minds of the main characters, for me it was the landscape and horrors of being a normal human being walking through a world torn apart by war that stood out. The difficulties of trying to get your mind to reconcile the brutality of what you see and do with your rational mind are nicely drawn out and explored in this short story.
Down the Rabbit Hole – I actually think this was my favourite of the three stories – there’s a slightly King-ish vibe to the story: the uneasiness of normal life being pushed slightly out of kilter – and I loved Tom! The depiction of a child’s acceptance of the unusual, the painful and interesting was perfectly delivered and I really wanted to step into this story – aside from the fact it creeped me out! – and put my arm around Tom to keep him safe.
My Overall Thoughts: The writing style is great – I liked the immediacy, the vivid reality created in the minds of the characters we meet in these short stories. Each is quite different in the content of the story and the perspective it’s written from, but at the same time there is a clear voice of the author.
One of the things Michael Cargill does very well is crawl into the ‘heads’ of the characters, places and objects he depicts: whether it’s the convoluted inner workings of a tortured, disturbed intelligence officer; the war-torn landscape of WWII France; or the playtime friend of a lonely little boy; his ability to bring the various aspects of a story to life was spot-on for me and I would heartily recommend this collection to people who like a rollicking good read – you’ll race through the stories and enjoy every minute.
Shades of Grey – along with a whole host of other books – will be in the massive giveaway at Indie Author Month on Aside from Writing taking place in May – so make sure you enter to win!