Review of three stories from "The Short, the Long and the Tall," collection by Andrew McIntyre
Summary:The Short, the Long, and the Tall is a collection of 34 stories published during the last 10 years, many of the stories sections that follow on from one another to constitute single narratives. The recurrent metaphorical theme of the collection is armed conflict, and the question of civilization, presented against contemporary events and the repetition of history.
War and the military are associated with barbarity yet, in order to survive, a civilized state needs a strong armed force. How this force is used in harmony with our ethics is the test we face. Set in jungles and third world cities, the stories feature hard-bitten, thoroughly disillusioned Westerners enduring far from home, struggling against insurgencies, and confronting this paradox.
The stories contained in this collection are more flash fiction style rather than short story; most of them clock in around 500 words. Overall I feel that if McIntyre could tighten up his presentation just a little more, his stories could have the potential to go from "ok" to "excellent."
For this review I am going to focus on three of the stories found in this collection: "Art for Art's Sake, Money for God's Sake," "The Big Man," and "The Game." To McIntyre's credit, all three of these stories were very different but, at the same time, you felt a sense of underlying connection. Respectively, the settings in the stories go from WWII to a jungle in a 3rd world country to an at-home chess game. Each time McIntyre delves into the idea of disillusionment. What society expects vs. what actually occurs.
As a stylistic choice, McIntyre seems to avoid using quotation marks and prefers large, block paragraphs. As a reader, I found this to be annoying. The quotation marks I could overlook; the author does a good job clearly expressing what is stated out loud. The block paragraphs, however, were more of a hinderance than a help. No literary effect would have been lost if an extra indentation or two had been added.
The plots themselves had a good pacing to them. Each time I was immediately grabbed into the action. But each time I felt a little disappointed by the ending. Part of a short story's success (even more so with flash fiction) is dependent on the author's ability to keep the reader thinking about their story long after they finish reading it. The author provides the framework and then the reader puts together the pieces.
After each story concluded, I felt like everything had been a little too spelled-out. It was like every single conclusion I could come to had already been drawn up for me so I had nothing left to mull over or figure out. A good example would be "The Game." Essentially it's about a father cheating at a chess game with his son in order to teach the son a life lesson. The story literally ends with the father saying he did it to teach his son about life. Personally, I think that's the kind of conclusion a reader should be left to draw on their own. Present me with the scenario of a father cheating and then let me fill in the "whys." Make me work a little for the ending.
So definitely an interesting concept for a collection. The good pacing a variety of plots keeps you engaged as you read. But, as I said in the beginning of this review, the writing could use just a little tightening up.
Reviewed by Alain Gomez
Buy this collection on Amazon.