Broken Symmetries
 by Steve Redwood

Dog Horn Publishing
First collection
Awards: Longlisted, British Fantasy Society Best Short Story Collection

Steve Redwood is the author of two novels: the BFS nominated Fisher of Devils (Prime Books, 2003), and Who Needs Cleopatra? (Reverb, 2005). He lives in Madrid.

Read an interview with Steve Redwood.

"There was a manic concentration in his actions, something desperate, almost brutal, in the way he jammed the neck of the bottle deep into the dog’s mouth. As it were an enemy, rather than a creature he was trying to help "

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

  I first encountered Steve Redwood’s work in 2004 when reading (and reviewing) The Heisenberg Mutation, a chapbook from D Press, featuring four of his tales. Since then I lost trace of him, mainly because, being a fan of short fiction I missed his two successful novels. Now I’m pleased to be reacquainted with this interesting author in the occasion of his debut short story collection.

Redwood’s fiction can be placed somewhere between horror and SF, but with a peculiar touch of humour and irony which sometimes are a mere undercurrent and sometimes overtly constitute the very atmosphere of the story. Due to my confirmed dislike for humorous fiction, some of the stories included in the present collection simply don’t work for me, but this doesn’t mean they are unworthy. Just please notice that there are quite a few of them so if you’re interested in that subgenre you may want to secure a copy of the volume as soon as possible.

I did enjoy, however, one of the humorous pieces, the entertaining Thank You For Your Submission revolving around the persistent attempts by a wannabe writer to have a story accepted by a literary magazine.

Anyway, if, like me, you don’t care for dark humour, rest assured that Redwood has many other cards to play as the remaining stories clearly show. Damaged is a delightful tale on the SF side where women are rented, exchanged, serviced. But somehow, feelings can still prevail…
He’d done more than could ever been expected of him. Not only renewed her twice already, but even been prepared to do it a third time! … He doubted if anyone else in the City had ever kept a woman out as long as that without a Service, certainly not one as damaged as she had been.
Maybe I’m wrong but I think that an earlier, equally poignant, version of the same story had previously appeared in the D Press booklet under the title Off the Shelf.

The Road to Damascus is a tongue-in-cheek piece depicting a future in which the human race has disappeared and humans can be considered only as funny creatures of a long gone past.

Phantom Verdict cleverly portraits a serious, thoughtful, but extremely boring husband :
We didn’t have children, though we did occasionally have sex, since that’s what respectable couples are supposed to do. His well-behaved penis would politely doff its cap and slide in and out of me like a metronome, and he always seemed slightly ashamed after orgasm and quickly withdrew, though on good nights he would stay there beside me for all of a minute, before, with a kind of crabwise furtive moment, slipping out of bed and going to wash himself. All those nasty germs we keep inside our vaginas were something beyond his control, chaotic, something to be avoided
The deeply disturbing Jeanne describes the ambiguous and strange relationship between a man and a young girl, while Going Back very effectively develops the theme of remorse haunting a man after a violent and tragic deed committed under the influence of alcohol and the gloomy Bait offers a grim vision of an alien religion in which the meaning of suffering, sickness and death is questioned.

In the compelling Expiry Date a haunted calendar shows, day after day, scenes from the past life of a young misogynist, heralding the final vengeance by a four-hundred-year old witch.

My favourite story is the excellent, tense and atmospheric Epiphany In the Sun, where the journey across Turkey of an unfaithful man and his fiancée is spoiled by the finding of a dying dog and the subsequent events. The well-told tale is graced by an excellent characterization and an insightful analysis of the frailty of the relationship between the man and the woman.
She glanced helplessly behind, but the small crowd across the road was now fully occupied with the drama of the dog….The reason nobody had noticed the assault was now apparent: an ugly pool of white flecked with yellow was seeping into the ground in front of the dog’s head. The man, still kneeling, looked up as she reached him, excitement and triumph animating his face…

“John, please, John, get me away from here!” He noticed her expression.

“Cathy, what’s happened?”

Her face was disfigured with humiliation. “Just get me out of here for Crissake!”
Extremely good fiction, definitely worth a try.

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"

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