The fourth in Unthank books terrific series of anthologies, Unthology 4 is a great showcase for new writing from both established short story writers such as Rodge Glass, to emerging authors like Marc Owen Jones who’s debut can be found within these pages.
What’s so great about the Unthology is that it shows a clear editorial line, stories flow effortlessly into each other, compelling you to read on. Carys Bray’s ‘Treasures of Heaven’ about sin segues into Michael Crossan’s Eden Dust which opens with the exclamation ‘Jesus!’. It’s a carefully thought through, and well-presented mix of stories, so much so that even the lesser pieces demonstrate merit when placed in the context of the anthology, bookended by thematically relevant stories.
The aforementioned one-two punch of Bray’s ‘Treasures of Heaven’ followed by Michael Crossan’s ‘Eden Dust’ are the clear highlights of this anthology. The former exploring the laws of chastity within the Mormon religion, and the latter being a McCarthy-esque post-apocalyptic tale, sombre and quieter than you would imagine. Elsewhere, Aiden O’Reilly’s story, the excellent ‘The Laundry Key Complex’ explores a very strange University friendship. ‘Eden Dust’ appears to be the only entry to be an extract from a novel, although it stands along perfectly fine, the dialogue heavy extract brimming with subdued emotion, and beautiful imagery.
There is some variation in writing styles, from Rodge Glass’ unnerving second person piece, ‘T.O.A.’ to the utterly surreal, although not entirely successful ‘Administration: An Intern’s Guide’ which errs on the wrong side of irreverent for just a bit too long. On the whole though, there is not so much in the way of experimental writing, and as such the stories could feel as though they could belong in a great many anthologies. In fact, some of the pieces, such as the simmering violence of Barnaby Walsh’s ‘Violet’ could stand side by side with pieces in an issue of Granta. It is not a large criticism by any means, as these stories are still strong, but this reviewer would have preferred to see a great many more stories taking a risk with narrative and voice.
However, this is a very strong anthology with an enormous variety of top name authors and newcomers alike. These Unthologies are beginning to creep up my list of most anticipating releases of the year. Highly recommended.
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