Triquorum One

Authors: John Grant, Allen Ashley and Lavie Tidhar
Pendragon Press
RRP: 5.99
ISBN 0 9583598 7 8
Available 30 April 2006

Tirquorum One is the first in a new collection of novellas from Pendragon Press, showcasing the writing talents of John Grant, Allen Ashley and Lavie Tidhar, all of whom are previously published authors...

The Interlopers, by Allen Ashley, is an intriguing slice of the weird. I guess at some point in our lives we've all asked ourselves the difficult questions - like do I really exist? Like most people we are able to anchor ourselves in reality by the things we own and the people who know us. Not so John Taylor, a nondescript name for a decidedly nondescript life. Things take a turn for the worse when John discovers that a couple inhabits his house whilst he is out, but John is too ineffective to really do anything about it. Worse still people are starting to ignore him at work.

Running in parallel with John's story is another of a man taking a virtual journey. The two parts of the story work well to undermine the notion that there is something called reality. John's slow decline and withdrawal from reality is well paced and his characterisation is spot on. Ashley deftly draws a picture of a man who wouldn't say "boo" to a goose. Because of this the reader never questions why he would put up with a couple living in his flat. When the world retreats from him he suffers frustration, but cannot gather the courage or force of will to do anything about it. His transformation, from nonentity in name to one in fact, reminded me a lot of Harlan Ellison's Shatterday, another great story of creepy transformation. A good thought provoking story well worth an hour of anyone's time.

Ever wonder why all the people you date seem to have similar traits, well John Grant has in The Thirty-Million Day Dance Card. This is the story of a man who appears to be very unlucky in love - from stillbirth relationships in college to the loss of his wife in a plane crash. Simon McLafferty has certainly had his traumas until he meets the very beautiful Jeanne. But Jeanne has a secret, don't all good women? Look away now if you don't want me to spoil the novella for you as it's difficult to discuss the story without giving away the ending, but I'll give it a good shot. Whilst the premise of the story was interesting the reveal at the end was a little confusing if Jeanne can manipulate reality to constantly find the same man then why doesn't Simon do the same thing after the loss of his first love. It's never really made clear whether this is an ability he discovers at the point of death or if he has been able to do this all along. Still, that niggle aside this is another well written story which is a worthy addition to this collection.

The last novella in this collection is Leaves of Glass by Lavie Tidhar, a man who obviously has a vendetta against poets as he has placed a lot of them in a vision of hell. The story details Walt Whitman's visit to Houdin, who persuades him to take a turn on his Dream Chair, a journey that Walt reluctantly undertakes. What follows is akin to Walt's worst acid trip. It's never explained where Walt goes and to be honest it would be redundant as Tidhar then proceeds to take the reader on a fantastical journey worthy of Coleridge's drug fuelled madness.

Overall this is a good collection at a reasonable price, with much in the writing to recommend it.

Charles Packer

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