Today dear readers I am reviewing Strange Wonders (Published 26 Nov. 2020) By Mike Russell. A big thank you to the publisher Strange Books for my copy to review, always appreciated. I always enjoy reading/reviewing Russell’s work as you never exactly know what to expect. Check out my last review of his work here.
Roll up! Roll up! Mike Russell presents Strange Wonders. Strangely wonderful, wonderfully strange stories of life, death and the mystery of existence. Strange Wonders is Mike Russell’s fourth short story collection. Prepare to be amazed. Roll up! Roll up!
About The Author
Mike Russell was born in 1973. He grew up in the small village of Pulborough in the south of England. As a child, he enjoyed daydreaming, art and writing strange stories. As an adult, he enjoys daydreaming, art and writing strange stories.
Mike Russell’s books have been described as Strange Fiction, Magical Realism, Surrealism, Weird Fiction, Weird Lit, Absurdist Fiction, Metaphysical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction… but he just likes to call them Strange Books.
Once again I find myself on the train to Strangeville with an open-ended ticket clutched tightly in my hand. It is always, always an experience reading Russell’s writing. One I highly recommend everyone to sample at least once. From the moment I stepped out onto the platform I was greeted by clowns handing out candy-floss, coffins flying here there and everywhere and I wondered why everyone was carrying a suitcase. I had arrived and there was no turning back.
Strange Wonders presents 12 out of the ordinary short stories about life, death and the mystery of existence. I enjoy reading Russell’s playful and quirky writing style, it is like nothing I have read before or since. He has a unique way of storytelling and creating characters that overcome the most bizarre situations they find themselves in.
I also admire the way Russell questions the big mysteries of life. What is the purpose of life? What happens after we die? Are we all just existing for the sake of existing? He takes on a different approach; a different, strange path that dives a little deeper into the unknown and unexplained. It forces you to open your mind to the endless possibilities of a world that makes little sense. Russell has a curious talent of keeping the reader hovering on the edge of their seat. You never know what you are about to come face to face with.
I was fascinated of the concept used in Mr Marconi’s Conscious Machines. In a fairground in the woods there is a circular red and white vertically-striped tent. Inside is an exhibit of machines that have been made conscious, they believe they live. None of the machines run on electricity. Among the machines there is Edith the thinking toaster who will make you breakfast while discussing philosophy and Tom the television who will choose the program he wants you to watch. If you dare change the channel he will growl at you. However the exhibits did not begin as machines, they began as people. Upon the second of discovering this fact, shivers exploded down my spine. They are people who have been conditioned into believing that they are nothing more than machines and as a consequence have turned into what they believe themselves to be. For example, Mr Marconi told his own wife that all she was ever good for was washing dishes and she believed it. So naturally she turned into a dishwasher and became his first exhibit. Russell explores how people often feel they are nothing more than machines, believing they are only good for certain things and never seeing past it. Soon it becomes all they do and in turn they become robotic with little desire or passion. Russell holds up a mirror to the reader, the world, allowing them to see how detached we have become from reality. We all spend our days hunched over screens, clicking and editing our lives to perfection. We go to work and immediately go onto autopilot, shedding our skin and humanity to be replaced with metal and mechanisms. The cogs may be turning but we switched off long ago. We perform task after task without question. It’s scary to realise just how easy it is to turn into a machine.
My favourite story from this collection is Linda’s light bulb emporium. Archie hates the dark, he hates that it can hide things and he wants to be able to see everything. He goes to Linda’s shop and she tells him that there is a way of lighting a room without using a light bulb. She also wants to create a light that is lighter than light, a light that can penetrate captured darkness. I was intrigued to learn of the secret and to discover that there are things that even the light can hide. We have all experienced it at some point in our lives, not being able to see what was always right there in front of us. It’s beautifully blinding and allows you to see beyond the void.
I give Strange Wonders By Mike Russell a Four out of Five paw rating.
As always, it was a fantastically strange whirlwind visit that kept me captivated from start to finish.
It’s ironic in ways as many may think these stories appear to make little to no sense when in fact they do. They have deeper meanings and explore themes we encounter in our everyday lives. Russell’s writing is different, unusual and turns your head upside down into a snow globe, shaking it up and causing a storm before sitting back and watching the pieces slowly fall into place. A tranquil strangeness that leaves you hypnotised and chilled. Keep up the strange Russell.
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