By Michael Cargill
This novel is actually a collection of three short stories about three very different people and settings. Each main character, in their own way istrying to survive in messed up situations where they have very little control. There are tons of books out there right now with the same or similar titles, so be careful! I won this book from Becky a couple of weeks back and just want to say thank you!
Story 1 – Shades of Grey; this is largely a stream of consciousness of the wandering mind of a captured operative, John, who is being tortured for information. He has been worked on for a while and he keeps flashing between past and present. It does go through some flashback to other people in John’s life so the reader can understand the ending. You don’t read too much about any gross torture stuff, but you know he is hurting. And, while it is a heavy subject matter, there are actually funny bits. Cargill seamlessly blends humor with horror and made me surprised that I found levity and laughed at times while reading about this situation.
Story 2 – There and Back Again – Set during WWII right before the Germans occupied France, we follow a British soldier, James who is one of the troops trying to stop the invasion. Also filled with a few humorous bits, this snapshot of war and the men who fight them shows what we are capable of committing and surviving during wartime, and a bit of the ridiculousness that accompanies it all. I don’t normally read war stories, but I found it interesting.
Story 3 – Down the Rabbit Hole – this third story is the longest of the bunch and the most disturbing to me. Hard to believe since the others about the atrocities of war and torture! But this one follows a young boy named Tom who has an abusive father and loving but ineffectual mother, though relatively strong willed, even though she has stuck it out with such an ass of a man for so long. His best friend, a stuffed rabbit named Borger, comes alive, or at least begins talking, and makes suggestions to Tom, both in what to say and what to do when faced with adversity or even boredom. Borger’s suggestions begin helpful and smart and take a turn to menacing and even deadly. But Borger has Tom’s best interests at heart, or does he?
This collection was great. I really enjoyed each of the characters and even after having finished this book a week ago I am still picturing some of the scenes. That can be both good and bad since some of the scenes were intense, but it made me think and stuck with me so I find that impressive. I also really enjoy the seamlessly blended humor. It felt natural and normal, maybe I am messed up in the head, but I resort to humor during trying times, and I really felt that it works in these stories. After having read Cargill’s blog, I was expecting much more ridiculous and wacky stuff, but he keeps it limited and it almost sneaks up on you in Shades of Grey. I am looking forward to reading more from Cargill and give this book a 3.5/4 stars.