I Am An Executioner

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Short Stories Challenge 2017 – On The Banks Of Table River: (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Published March 27, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s On The Banks Of Table River: (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319) all about?:

The final story in this collection is set in the future on Planet Lucina and is told from the point of view of one of the beings living there exploring their relationship with love, death and Earthlings.

What did I think?:

The stories in I Am An Executioner have been an absolute delight to read and On The Banks Of Table River was another example of an outstanding piece of fiction that I was thoroughly immersed in and didn’t want to end. His stories might not be for everyone, they’re a bit quirky, downright strange in points and of course, as with every short story collection, some are better than others. If like me however, you like your fiction a bit different and exciting, Rajesh Parameswaran is the way to go. Particularly as this is his debut collection which is so unbelievably strong that I am assured he will be doing amazing things in the future.

I Am An Executioner: Love Stories (to give it the full title) focuses on love and often death in each narrative (hence the executioner part!). Some of the stories in this collection are narrated by animals, others by quite unreliable narrators and even one from a painting but they’re all unique and special in their own way. On The Banks Of Table River is another blinder. It is set in the future on an alien world, Planet Lucina which humans are welcomed to visit, live or mate with the local species, depending on your tastes! Our story is narrated by one of the local species, an insect-like creature with a proboscis, feelers and six legs but increased in size compared to your regular bug.

Our narrator, Thoren has a daughter called Nippima and she is causing him no end of grief, in the typical teenage fashion. She is moody, distant, keeps disappearing without telling him and worse of all has starting exhibiting quite human behaviours like wearing the latest Earth fashions (miniskirts made for six legs) and offering tours of the planet to any humans eager and willing. She becomes quite attached to one particular male human and is devastated when he sees what her father does for a living as like some fascinating science experiment. Her father prepares corpses of the native species that have died and arranges funerals for them, much like a mortician in our world. Things start to go a bit wrong after the meeting between Nippima and the human and her father reminiscences about the time when Nippima was conceived bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase “love you to death!”

This strange little bit of science fiction was the perfect way to end an absolutely amazing collection of stories that has to be one of my favourites so far in my Short Stories Challenge. I loved the way the author transported us to a different planet where WE were the alien species and we learned about love and death in a whole new fashion. The story is told so beautifully and with so much passion, you could be forgiven for thinking that the author had been acquainted with one of these insect-like beings beforehand! I also loved the relationship between Thoren and his daughter Nippima which was startlingly similar to parent/child relationships here on Earth. It came so, so close to getting the full five stars from me – ever so close! I just think the ending could have done with slightly more clarification…. I think I know what happened but it turned a bit vague and had so much potential to end with a bang.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

4-5-stars

 

 

 

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Passenger by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part One

Published January 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

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Its a new year and time for some more short stories. I usually do short stories in three month blocks however I’ve been struggling to keep up with this so instead of calling this post January to March I shall call it Part One and see how I get on! This is what I’ll be reading in the first half of 2017:

The Raft by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

The Butcher Of Meena Creek by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

The Wishing Tree by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Faithful Lovers by Margaret Drabble from the collection The Story: Love Loss & The Lives Of Women

Double Room by Ramsey Campbell from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page

The Adventure Of The Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Erase Me: Positron, Episode Three – Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

On The Banks Of Table River: (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

The Passenger by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Fleeing Complexity by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Short Stories Challenge – Elephants In Captivity (Part One) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Published August 14, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s Elephants In Captivity (Part One) all about?:

The penultimate story in this collection is told from the point of view of an elephant who is looking back on her life before she was captured and forced to join a circus.

What did I think?:

There is so much more to this story than what I’ve written in the synopsis which doesn’t do the complexity or the originality of this narrative justice at all. However, I’m going to attempt to explain a bit more about it in a coherent way but apologies in advance if it all just sounds a bit rambling. The most important thing about Elephants in Captivity is not the text itself but the footnotes which play a huge role in telling the story and unearth many unexpected surprises. The narrator of the footnotes suggests to the reader that it is best to read the entire story through once whilst ignoring the footnotes then return and read the story a second time, giving yourself plenty of times to incorporate what is written within the footnotes.

I did just as the author suggested and after I finished the story the first time round, I have to admit to feeling a bit confused. When I first began, I thought it was brilliant – I’m a big animal lover and I loved the author’s previous story in this collection told from the point of view of a tiger, The Infamous Bengal Ming so a story told by an elephant called Shanti seemed right up my street. By the end however, I wasn’t so sure…it seemed a bit too abrupt and that there seemed to be an awful lot of things that hadn’t been said that should have been. Enter the footnotes! On the second reading, everything began to slot into place and I was left filled with admiration for a very clever and different way of telling a story.

I don’t really want to go into what the footnotes contain too much as I fear it would spoil the story but let me just say – you need those footnotes! The narrator puts some crucial information into these “little” notes (I say “little” but believe me, the length of some of these notes could make a short story in themselves!). I loved the parts that he set up almost like dialogue from a play that explored the relationships between certain members of the herd in a much deeper (and darker) way than we get from just hearing Shanti’s point of view in the original text. Then there were the tidbits of information about his own life and how it related to the elephants that were very darkly humorous, at times shocking but impossible to put down. I’ll say one thing and then leave it there – penis like an elephant trunk?!

This was a story that proved what an undeniable talent and huge imagination Rajesh Parameswaran has as a storyteller and although Elephant In Captivity frustrated me initially, reading it through with the footnotes as additional pieces of information really gave the story something special and has firmly cemented it in my mind as one of my favourites from this collection as a whole.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Space by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

 

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – April to June

Published April 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months in my Short Stories Challenge! The first few months of this year have whizzed by and I’ve found some great pieces of short fiction to add to my collection. Here’s the stories that will take me right through to the summer:

Week beginning 4th April

Elephants In Captivity (Part One) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 11th April

Space by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 18th April

If It Keeps On Raining by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 25th April

The Lordly Ones by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 2nd May

Tiger Moth by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 9th May

The Shadow Tree by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Week beginning 16th May

The Unremarkable Heart by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 23rd May

Red Letter Day by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 30th May

Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 6th June

The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 13th June

Hogmanay Homicide by Edward Marston from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 20th June

What We Save by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 27th June

A Convalescent Ego by Richard Yates from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Short Stories Challenge – Bibhutibhushan Malik’s Final Storyboard by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Published December 29, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s Bibhutibhushan Malik’s Final Storyboard all about?:

Bibhutibhushan is an art director working for a now very famous Indian film director but he has always been keen to break away from his friend an develop and produce his own film. There’s only one problem – he’s in love with the director’s wife.

What did I think?:

I Am An Executioner is without a doubt one of my favourite books in my short stories challenge and I was excited to read the next story in the collection, especially one with such an intriguing title. For the most part, I was delighted with it although I have to admit I was disappointed with the ending, which if done differently might have led to me giving this story the full five stars. Our narrator for this outing is the Bibhutibhushan Malik of the title who has been the production designer for all of popular Indian director Jogesh Sen’s films and, as we find out, has known him well before his current days of dizzying fame and fortune.

However, Malik has two secrets. First, he longs to write his own screenplay and has been beavering away for the last two years on an idea which has recently been taken up by an independent film director in New York. Secondly, he has been having an affair with Sen’s wife, Nirmala for the past two years. Malik is so secure in his perceived abilities and talents that he tells Nirmala that she will be able to leave her husband and be with him very soon as his picture is sure to be a roaring success and he will be able to keep her in the state that she has become accustomed to.

Malik’s super-confidence knows no boundaries and he boasts to the reader countless times on how Sen would be nothing without him and it is his beautiful designs and ideas that make the films as successful as they are. Of course, the reader must trust him as we don’t know any different. It is only after Malik gets his opportunity to shine that we begin to realise that perhaps he isn’t as great as he thinks he is? Nevertheless, I did find myself feeling terribly sorry for him as things begin to unravel and his (deluded) little bubble is well and truly popped.

It’s only as I’m writing this review that I’m starting to realise how clever this story actually is. I completely bought into the romance between Malik and Nirmala (even if it is a naughty little affair) and found myself analysing everything and everyone through his eyes. What the author does next is nothing short of brilliant – things are turned completely on their head and you begin to question what you previously thought was true. I love stories that trick me in this manner, challenge me and then make me want to start again with my newly acquired information! I do think the ending could have been a little snappier and had the potential to be phenomenal but this is still one of my favourite stories of the collection.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Jesus Stories by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – October to December

Published October 2, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://www.slideshare.net/ernella32/teaching-the-short-story

It’s nearly the end of the year and here’s what I’ll be reading short story wise to see out 2015!

Week beginning 5th October

Corrugated Dreaming by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 12th October

Beachcombing by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 19th October

A Man And Two Women by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives of Women edited by Victoria Hislop

Week beginning 26th October

The New Veterans by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 2nd November

The Adventure Of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 9th November

Vuotjärvi by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 16th November

Bibhutibhushan Malik’s Final Storyboard by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 23rd November

The Jesus Stories by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 30th November

We Were Just Driving Around by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 7th December

The Chamois by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 14th December

Under The Pylon by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 21st December

A Mighty Horde Of Women In Very Big Hats, Advancing by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 28th December

The Mean Time by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Short Stories Challenge – Narrative of Agent 97-4702 by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner

Published August 23, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s Narrative of Agent 97-4702 all about?:

Our narrator in this short story is a government agent who details her daily working life, how she came to enter the Agency, her relationship with her husband and the time when she faced disciplinary action.

What did I think?:

I Am An Executioner has been one of my favourite collections of short stories and introduced me to an author who writes with such intensity and passion that I was so glad I discovered him. Not every story is going to be perfect however or speak to the reader on an individual level. Unfortunately, Narrative of Agent 97-4702 was one of those stories for me and even on a second reading failed to interest me although as before I appreciated the unique style of writing that the author gives us with every story.

Our narrator is a government agent in a dystopian future whose current mission is to report on the actions of a particular subject as he leaves for work each day. Our narrator does not know much about the subject in question, not even what he does for a living, her task is to merely report on what he does each morning and then at 1900 hrs when he returns from his working day. The reader also gets an insight into our narrators personal history – how she became an Agent in the first place, her relationship with her husband (referred to here only as “J”) and a matter with another Agent where she viewed personal information that she was not supposed to have access to and which may result in disciplinary action. The story itself is presented as a written confession from our narrator, admitting that she has accessed this unauthorised information.

This review has proved very difficult to write, I appreciated the intrigue of our Agents role and thought the relationship with her husband J was very interesting as neither were allowed to speak about what they do during the day. For some reason though this story fell quite flat for me and I was disappointed as I have thoroughly enjoyed most of the stories in this collection. I’m not sure whether it was because I found our narrators voice quite cold and hard to relate to but then again, I believe this was what the author meant us to feel due to the mysterious nature of her work. All the stories in this collection are about love and in all the different ways it is represented and even though our Agent and J are very limited in what they can talk about round the dinner table, you can sense the deep love in their relationship. I would love to hear other people’s points of view on this story, am I missing something and did you enjoy it?

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Small Degrees by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky