Nick Parker is a wordsmith (by day and by night) which makes me a bit nervous in the task of reviewing his work. However, I will tell it as I see it, because, above all, this is the message I got from the forty two stories which make up the volume. I think Nick is telling it as he sees it and inviting us to share his perspective. Which seems to be Borgesian, surreal at times, but contemporary in the extreme. Or maybe, the number of stories is significant – didn’t the late great Douglas Adams reveal that the answer to the universe was 42. Look no further. Here are 42 ‘Tiny Tales’ that may not give you all the answers but together they may make up the answer!
Some stories make you see life in a different way, some of them have you going ‘yes, that’s exactly what I think’ and as many make you laugh out loud as have you reflecting deeply. The uncompromising way Parker does his job and challenges you as reader to do yours, really appeals to me. Everyone will have a different response to the work, but the quality writing shines through. It is for the reader to find points of connection and the writer gives them the freedom to interpret. I found it took a few stories for my brain to adapt to the way I was being given information – The Exploding Boy was funny, but there’s more than a sharp one liner to the stories, the deeper you look the more you see. By the time I got to Adventure! I was beginning to think I had some thought connection with the writer.
The Summer of Pakflake was a really interesting take on the power of branding (and the possibilities for using packaging as food). As a Dog owner the The Dogs was both hilarious and thought provoking. I read it to my dogs. They didn’t say much, but looked at me in that supercilious way dogs have. I’m sure they got it. I didn’t feel I always understood the way Parker uses animals as subjects, but I know that this is my failing, not his. Some stories need to be read, thought about and re-read in order to yield full value. And this is a good thing. All the stories, even those too weird for me to feel I ‘got’ them, are delivered with a succinctness of style and a mastery of words which repays the reader, encouraging them to look further, think more deeply and find a point of engagement.
Why we cannot defeat the enemy? Shows Parker at his best, giving us a thought gobbet and leaving us unsettled and reflecting on the nature of ‘war’ itself. The Long Way Home was a really insightful take on dementia and the Museum of the Sea was a perfect ending story, putting me in mind of the search for Higgs Boson and the sense of reflecting on all the ‘nots’ rather than on what ‘is’.
And I enjoyed the Boyle Connection immensely. It should be required reading for anyone who is considering what might go wrong with Scotland’s new ‘Curriculum for Excellence.’ Or who just wonders what really goes on in the modern classroom!
Nick Parker is one of the few indie ebook authors who has received acclaim from conventional sources, in this case the Guardian. Given the current debate around the ‘quality’ of self-published ebooks, one might argue either that Parker’s work bucks the trend or reconfirms that the quality of the work is in the quality of the writing and the ideas behind the writing. No format has a privilege on ‘quality’ and it seems as unlikely to me that Nick Parker’s is the only good self published ebook as it is that it would have found a mainstream traditional publisher in the current climate. His is a unique voice, his stories are great and I can only conclude that whatever the naysayers and doom-mongers predict, the digital revolution has the potential to bring forth some very good, very challenging and very enjoyable work.
Certainly, for me, it’s proof that self-published ebooks can both be very good and very successful. That the direct link between writer and reader is not dead and that if we look hard enough, we may all find some real treasures in this exciting new publishing medium.
Reviewed by Cally Phillips
The Exploding Boy is available in Kindle format