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They Do the Same Things Different There: The…

They Do the Same Things Different There: The Best Weird Fantasy of Robert…

by Robert Shearman

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Shearman’s latest collection of absurdist short stories is, if anything, even more horrific, beguiling and strange than his previous collections. The collections from ChiZine emphasise the darker side of his work, most of the stories qualifying as horror in one way or another. But it’s not standard horror, instead it’s absurdist horror; existential terrors summoned to the page to disquiet the reader. Blood and guts do appear from time to time but never to shock purposes. Instead it’s all presented in Shearman’s calm authorial voice, the author always sure and in control where his characters are, in a very British way, politely bewildered by events.

It starts off lightly, with Luxembourg going missing and moves on through unorthodox takes on Peanuts (A Joke In Four Panels), Hansel and Gretel (Peckish), the rewards for martyrs in heaven (72 Virgins) and how we anthropomorphise objects (Static). History and love are recurring fascinations. It’d be apt if, having started with the disappearance of a country, the collection finished with the reappearance of the Twin Towers (History Becomes You, as sharp and wise about history and human nature as any short story I’ve read. And I’ve read a few). And perhaps it’s most satisfying to think of it as the final piece and the last story as a rather sweet coda. For all we’ve seen cannibalism, sex, murder, bestiality and people held captive against their will the collection finishes on the sweetest of notes, a bittersweet paean to the power of music that seems to be moving toward tragedy but lifts itself courageously at the last with a beautiful, earned sentiment. And with that, the writer leaves the stage but leaves the reader craving more. ( )
  JonArnold | Jan 23, 2015 |
It had been a quite while since I had enjoyed a speculative fiction collection as much as I’ve enjoyed “They Do the Same Things Different There”, which I found simply amazing. I had previously read a few stories by Robert Shearman, so I knew more or less what to expect, nicely written quirky stories with a touch of irony. And I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy this book, but it has gone beyond all my expectations. From the twenty-four stories collected here, a couple were just good, most of them really good and a handful of them excellent, so no filler stories here.

Although the label weird or surrealist would fit most of them, they were so imaginative and diverse that I didn’t find them monotonous, quite the opposite, each story was a surprise, completely different to the previous ones, and each story, for its part, was full of wonderful twists. For me this book was as delicious and full of surprises as a box of assorted chocolates, so I forced me to space them out and to read one at a time, to make them last longer.

What is more, these are not the kind of story you read and enjoy, and five minutes later you’ve completely forgotten about it: they linger in your mind and make you think, as they leave plenty to the reader’s imagination.

And though in a collection so full of gems is hard to choose, among my favorite ones would be “Static”, “Restoration”, “Luxembourg”, “Our Fallen Sons”, “A Grand Day Out”, “History Becomes You” and “Memories of Craving Long Gone”. ( )
  cuentosalgernon | Jan 21, 2015 |
If I were to categorize my bookshelves by genre, then this collection of stories would simply have to dance from shelf to shelf. Some Bizarro, slipstream, humour, fantasy, horror, science fiction and just plain weird stories abound.

You will have to form your own conclusions with many of the story endings because Sherman does not always hold your hand the whole way; if you cannot watch a film or read a book without being told absolutely everything then perhaps this is not the book for you.

However, if you want to jump out of short story rut-land and you like a little bit of unpredictability read this and you will find not only weirdness galore but well written, compelling and sublimely realised stories.

Received for an honest review.

Urthwild ( )
  Urthwild | Nov 29, 2014 |
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley.

They Do the Same Things Different There is an unusually strong short story collection. Most collections are bogged down by a few weak stories, but each story in this collection is delightful in its own way. The author has won numerous awards for his writing, and in this case, it’s well deserved.

The stories in this collection range from disturbing to horrific to odd. The characters are well-described and realistic, though some of them are more likeable than others.

A few of the stories stand above the others. In my favourites, the World Trade Centre Towers return (“History Becomes You”), a family buys a house with a defective sky (“Patches”), and a bed and breakfast has a ghost problem (“The Sixteenth Step”).

Some of the stories in this collection touch on bestiality (“Taboo”) and cannibalism (“Peckish”), which may disturb some readers.

Many of the stories end abruptly, with ambiguous endings. The gnomes thought these endings were powerful, but others may find them frustrating.

This collection is ideal for fans of fantasy, horror, and weird fiction.

Rating: 5 Gnomes Out of 5

This review originally appeared on gnomereviews.ca. ( )
  gnomereviews | Oct 8, 2014 |
This collection of short stories varies from the macabre to the horrific to the just plain odd.

Vivid descriptions help place characters and settings into rather surreal worlds and/or situations.

Characters vary from likeable to despicable, realistic to bizarre.

Overall, an interesting read. ( )
  catya77 | Sep 14, 2014 |
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Robert Shearman visits worlds that are unsettling and strange. Sometimes they are just like ours-except landlocked countries may disappear overnight, marriages to camels are the norm, and the dead turn into musical instruments. Sometimes they are quite alien-where children carve their own tongues from trees, and magic shows are performed to amuse the troops in the war between demons and angels. There is horror, and dreams fulfilled and squandered, of true love. They do the same things different there.… (more)

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