[Re]Awakenings by PR Pope. Book review

[RE]AWAKENINGS by PR Pope, Elsewhen Press, p/b £9.99

Reviewed by I O’Reilly

Reading an anthology of speculative fiction from writer’s you may have never read before is a lot like going on a first date. Or a whole series of first dates to be more precise. A little nerve-racking; you’re not sure what to expect and what directions they writers are going to lure you towards. Needless to say, I was happily surprised.

[Re]Awakenings is an anthology of short stories set firmly in the ‘Speculative Fiction’/Slipstream genre, all loosely based abound the title’s theme. Here we see a babies’ thoughts before they enter the world, what could happen after we shuffle off the mortal coil, and wonder what the differences are between virtual and physical reality. Pointedly mysterious and often thought-provoking; these tales are set in the hinterlands of reality and refuse to provide easy answers.

One of the most enjoyable for me was Robin Moran’s “The Merry Maiden Wails”, a story set in a ghost town in rural England, and one that could have emerged out of the Hammer Horror vaults. The author paints a moving picture of the character’s lives as he looks back into the towns unsettling past. Escalating the sense of danger, the simple families try to understand just what a grotesque statue sitting on an abandoned bit of field has to do with their misfortunes.

In complete contrast to this we have Alexander Skye examining the notion of Time for space traveller’s, in ‘Dreaming Mars’. Star pilot Annabelle tries to remember her young love with a husband now grown old on Earth whilst she remains ever young, orbiting the stars.

From these stories the anthology suddenly delves into the surreal and the bizarre; ‘Worth It’ considers what would happen if we could learn how to harness the power of the human body to power our cities, and how a small clause in a life insurance policy can seal your legacy… Alison Buck’s ‘Podcast’ tells the story of a young girl being abducted – or so she thinks – and awakening to find herself in an organic, fleshy sack that is labouring to push her out…

Not for the easily offended, there is a sense that all of the writers had fun playing with the concept of Re:Awakening, not least of which is seen PR Pope’s own offerings of  ‘After Life’ and ‘On The Game’. Although there is nothing here that will wake you up in the middle of the night, the stories are all entertaining, sometimes creepy, disturbing and all well-told. An excellent introduction to Speculative Fiction in general, and to the Elsewhen Press catalogue.