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The Fabulous Beast
Garry Kilworth
CreateSpace, 270 pages

The Fabulous Beast
Garry Kilworth
Garry Kilworth has now been writing novels and short stories for 35 years and is as close to seven million words in print as he is into his seventh decade. While he enjoys writing novels, and dabbles with poetry, his paramount passion is the short story, which he rips from his brain and burns onto the page. A great deal of his inspiration for the tales he writes comes from traveling, especially in the Far East, where he spent much of his youth and a few years of his later life. His recent book, Scarlet Sash (Severn House), is a military crime novel set during the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879. He is currently planning a volume of poems, half of them written by himself, and half written by the late Robert Holdstock. The shared collection will be entitled Poems, Peoms and other Atrocities, scheduled for publication from PS's Stanza Press imprint.

Garry Kilworth Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: On My Way to Samarkand: Memoirs of a Travelling Writer
SF Site Review: Memories of the Flying Ball Bike Shop
SF Site Review: Tales from a Fragrant Harbour

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'At first glance it appeared to be a scarecrow made of glittering tin foil folded into and around crisp brown paper. But I knew it was a fairy. Amazingly lean and angular it stared with wide, sparkling, magenta eyes at this audacious mortal, stealing from its orchard. I believe we were both so shocked neither of us moved for a second.'
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The Fabulous Beast is a collection of short stories described by the publisher as a set of beautifully crafted tales of the imagination by a writer who was smitten by the magic of the speculative short story at the age of twelve, and has remained under its spell ever since. An introduction loaded with promise, but does it add up to five beans?

The collection can roughly be divided between fantasy, science fiction and light horror. Most are stand-alone pieces, but three are linked under the banner of "Anglo-Saxon Tales." Much of what is on offer here employs well trod themes, with added twists. Among the subjects tackled are a supernatural murder mystery involving a love triangle and statues coming to life, a tale concerning AI at a call centre who are not much use when a body-swap holiday goes wrong, and the deliberations of a jury comprising of the usual twelve persons, until an act of spontaneous cloning turns them into thirteen. A number which proves unlucky for some. The "Anglo-Saxon" trilogy is a more standard example of men, invisible elves and re-imaged gods. Disappointingly, much of The Fabulous Beast wasn't as fabulous as I'd hoped it might be. It's not that author Garry Kilworth tells his stories badly, or any particular problem with his writing style. The issue was that I rarely felt surprise, and being able to guess what was coming up more times than not made reading less pleasurable. Often, stories gave me the hope that they were going somewhere altogether different, only to end up in a familiar place. The title piece, to give a specific example, features a man who literally pieces together the hide of a unique creature. When fully reconstituted the Fabulous Beast begins to birth various creatures of legend, seemingly at random and without the usual requirement for pregnancy. Once this process has begun, there seemed an obvious place for it to end, and that is exactly what happens. I found it hard to understand why the author hadn't taken that one step beyond required to at least startle his readers.

At the risk of damning with faint praise, The Fabulous Beast is a steady, workmanlike collection, which has the essence of modern fable as opposed to the kind of stories that wrong foot a reader at every turn. Perhaps more gentle on the mind than many of its contemporaries, it may appeal most to those readers who prefer a less frenetic style of writing. Also to parents who like to read to their children, and want something that isn't filled with gratuitous bad language or unrelentingly graphic gruesomeness.

Copyright © 2013 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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