The Life to Come

Author: Tim Lees
Elastic Press
RRP 5.00

ISBN 0 9548812 2 2
Available 01 May 2005

A life in which the gods are caged, a strange creature is born from starlight, aliens invade the living room and interplanetary detritus fills the Earth, while mankind endures its own small, personal dilemmas, painful and comical by turns. From Paris to Morocco to the English countryside, here are sixteen stories where reality and fantasy collide, dispatches from a world with only one clear certainty: that the life to come will be far stranger, more perverse and perilous than we could ever dream...

The Life to Come is a collection of short stories by Tim Lees, most of which have already been published in the magazine The Third Alternative. This compilation has been published by Elastic Press, which is a small independent publishing house that specialise in collections by authors who have yet to break into the mainstream. However, they are not a vanity press publisher. Whilst they do not promise you any financial gain (you get 50 per cent of the profits, if any) they do not, as far as I can tell, ask for anything up front.

According to the blurb on the back of the book Lees has had many vocations, which for a writer is not a bad thing, as the extra range of experiences can only inform his writing.

Lees's collection consists of sixteen short stories, most clearly positioned in the Science Fiction genre. The quality of the stories are, overall quite good, though with some reservations. I personally found that the vocabulary used, whilst impressive in its range, made some of the stories a little too dense in places. On occasion it felt like Lees was using words and structures just because he could and not to bring clarity or atmosphere to the narrative.

His influences are worn on his sleeve, from Kafka to Peake, through more contemporary writers and this would not be so bad, after all we are all influenced by someone, it's just a shame that the concepts and imagery are so heavily handled.

On the plus side, for a new writer a lot of the underlying ideas behind the stories are original and compelling. Gods used as power stations and creatures created from starlight are the first concepts you will discover. The stories tend to be small and personal rather than the space operas that one would expect from the Star Wars generation.

Overall I found the book heavy going but well worth the effort, I think with a little more time, and a more relaxed writing style, we will be hearing from Tim again.

Charles Packer

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