The Silver Wind
 by Nina Allan

Eibonvale Press
2011
Paperback
Second Collection






"It is true to say I loved her at first sight, though I had no understanding of her as a sister."


Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

This a short story collection, assembling five different tales, each one a stand- alone piece. Yet, the five stories are linked, interweaved, superimposed. The characters appear in more than one story, sometimes changed, transformed and the relationships between them keep changing in a fascinating kaleidoscope. Because this is spellbinding, magical book where Nina Allan displays all her powerful imagination, her incredible talent for solid storytelling, but also for rewriting the reality in such a way that things are clearcut yet blurry at the same time. She’s a writer and a sorceress, able to make the unbelievable believable, so real that the reader is enveloped in a fascinating web of images and words which are, at the same time, colours and music.

The main character starring in various stories is Martin Newland, an individual fascinated, or, better, obsessed with watches and clocks, which seem to mark somehow the different phases of his life. The opening story, Time’s Chariot, is the vivid portrait of an odd family featuring, among other members, a long gone father, a generous uncle and a couple of incestuous kids. The gift of a Longines watch for the boy’s eighteenth birthday and his sister’s death are the turning points in the family history.
At the end of a month Henry and my mother took her to the doctor. I stayed at home in my room, feeling terror for the first time in my life. There was a sour taste in my mouth... It was a rare form of leukemia. They tried giving her a transfusion but it didn’t work.
In the second tale My Brother’s Keeper, Martin receives a watch as a birthday present but that happens when he turns fourteen and the brand is Smith. Moreover he has lost a brother - not a sister - Stephen, whose ghost comes to visit him and who in the ends reveals to Martin that his real mother is another woman. A fascinating puzzle, told in a beautiful narrative style.
I knew already from my encounters with Stephen that miracles could happen, that the important thing was not what you saw or thought you saw but the significance you attached to it. By the time we changed trains at London Bridge I had made a decision: I would become a connoisseur of time.
The Silver Wind to me is an overlong, a bit confusing piece featuring a dwarf clockmaker, in which Martin is a real estate agent trying to survive in a bleak future world where criminals and mutants make life dangerous.
I knew it was futile to wait but I waited anyway. Andrews had said we would meet again and I somehow believed him. I sipped my drink and scanned the faces in the crowd, hoping that one of them one day would be the face of my friend.
In Rewind Martin loses his sister as an adult, not a child, and falls in love with Miranda, a colleague living with a stern mother resembling the woman described as Martin’s mum in the first story. And again, the dwarf is there, unchanged from when Martin was a kid…
The thought of intimated contact with Edmund Wiley had always sickened her. It was not just the fear that he would find her flat chest and bony body repulsive; what she feared was the penetration of her body by another, the idea that she might not be able to stand such dreadful proximity.
The final tale Timelines: an Afterword leaves the mysteries unsolved and takes us back to the Smith watch, but in a different context.
The watch had belonged to Andrew’s grandfather. It was a Smith watch, not one of the rarer models, just one of the many thousands that the London firm had manufactured for the army in the years leading up to World War Two.
If you don’t know Nina Allan yet, it’s high time you make your acquaintance with an extraordinary writer of strange, dark fiction. This book is an excellent opportunity.


Read a short story by this author on NinaAllan.co.uk


Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy. Most likely the only Italian who regularly reads (and reviews) dark fiction in English, his book reviews have appeared in a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, The SF Site, The Agony Column and Horrorworld.
Mario's other Short Reviews: Simon Stranzas "Cold to the Touch"

Cern Zoo anthology

Deborah Biancotti "A Book of Endings"

Joseph Payne Brennan "The Feaster from Afar and Other Ghastly Inhabitants"

Paulo Bacigalupi "Pump Six and Other Stories"

"Null Immortalis anthology"

Steve Redwood "Broken Symmetries"

Rosalie Parker "Old Knowledge and Other Strange Tales"

Michael Kelly "Undertow and Other Laments"

Gwen Davies (ed) "Sing Sorrow Sorrow"

Alice Perrin "East of Suez"

Bite-Sized Horror

Robert Aickman "Cold Hand In Mine"

Nicholas Royle (ed) "Best British Short Stories 2011"
                     
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London-born Nina Allan is the author of a previous story collection A Thread of Truth (Eibonvale Press). Two of her stories have been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award and selected for Year’s Best anthologies.

Read an interview with Nina Allan