Strong-hearted stories, dark & funny

 

Mercy & Other Stories|Tartarus Press|Rebecca Lloyd

Mercy and Other Stories
Tartarus Press
UK Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-1-905-78461-5
Publication Date: 03-23-2014> Date Reviewed: 01-03-2015
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2015

 

Index:  Horror  Fantasy  Mystery  General Fiction

Rebecca Lloyd’s collection from Tartarus Press, ‘Mercy and Other Stories,’ shows that humans need no knives to inflict hurt or pain, and that narratives need not have monsters to show the monstrous emotions of which humanity is so clearly capable.

Our own minds prove to be a perfect breeding ground for the fantastic, a place where cause is irrelevant even though effect is irrevocable. Our knives and monsters are ever ready, and as real as we need them to be.

Lloyd’s approach in the stories here involves a careful matching of narrator, prose style and plot. The stories veer in and out of reality and the fantastic with utter aplomb as to any expectations the reader might bring along. After all, every world in our mind is as real as can be. You cannot argue with our emotional perceptions. If we’re certain that a legendary monster has stolen our spouse, one need only be reminded that jealousy legendarily has no bounds. This is not to say that Lloyd is shy about writing to a fantastic premise, but rather, that she infuses all the stories here with an all-too-human frailty.

For the most part, you’ll find stories on the shorter side in ‘Mercy,’ and the extremely well-crafted aspect of them rises slowly to our attention. The title story takes a cue from the Fortean Times and just about every newspaper you’ve ever read to get inside the mind of devotion. “The Stone” invests a most ordinary object with properties that only human emotions could imagine. It’s an extremely creepy vision of city life. But Lloyd brings a gentleness to the prose and narrative that’s disarming.

Readers who want to sleep the night without disturbance will want to schedule their reading of “The Meat Freezer” for midday. Like many of the stories here, there’s a certain opacity at work at first. By the time the story finishes, you might wish it were still in place. It’s a gripping reading experience, but definitely not for the faint of heart.

While most of the stories are certainly in the shorter form, Lloyd excels in longer stories as well. “Gone to the Deep,” a story of re-location and dislocation and loss, crafts an evocative landscape that births a glorious, dangerous vision. “Maynard’s Mountain” is actually pretty funny as well as a gritty, grotty brand of disturbing. “All That Follows” twists up a love story, while “The Reunion” does the same to family.

The stories collected in ‘Mercy’ are excitingly, invitingly, engagingly human. With each tale, Lloyd offers us the premise that our hearts are a mystery. As her storytellers reveal what lies in their hearts, as their voices seep into our minds, as their emotions become ours, we gradually realize that mirrors indeed show no mercy.

REVIEWS FOR: THE VIEW FROM ENDLESS STREET

Review by Philip Clement, Neon Magazine 2014

The View From Endless Street

Publisher: WiDo Publishing | Author: Rebecca Lloyd | Buy: Amazon UK / Amazon USA | More:Goodreads

The View From Endless Street is a quiet collection that demonstrates Rebecca Lloyd’s talent as an observational writer. The full gamut of witty and perceptive character sketches contained within its pages is capable by turns of painting the murderer, the fire eater, the eel farmer and the homeless. Together they evoke the macabre and the fantastic in their presentation of isolation, heartbreak and loss.

He singled one of them out and glowered at her, rubbing the burning torch over the flesh of his belly and licking his lips. The cool look she returned hurt him, and for a moment, he lost concentration and burnt his flesh on the hot wire. The world had changed… the fact of it left him in a state of bewilderment that frequently turned to fear…

Powerful imagery is intermingled with an inherent eccentricity and together these conjure stirring and memorable scenes from the lives of a series of dispossessed and dislocated characters. Throughout the collection, these characters play out their life stories against their romantic and familial counterparts; Lloyd cleverly interposes their sense of status quo by introducing them to their binary opposites. In “The Snow Room” a brother and sister obsess over their personal insecurities, unaware of the gulf that is opening between them; they exist eternally trapped by their need of each other.

After their mother died, they’d talked from time to time about one of them moving out, but neither quite knew how to go about it. Janet suspected that if somebody had ever chosen either of them as a lover, the lucky one would have moved out quickly and left the other in the creaking flat without remorse. Luck of that magnitude, though, was wildly unrealistic as they were not beautiful.

This passage is typical of the brilliance of this collection. Lloyd constantly underwrites herself, imparting knowledge as though it were fact and then dashing our hopes immediately. Indeed, this passage also elucidates a further theme that preoccupies the collection: that of personal loneliness. In each fiction characters regress and act against change. Rather than documenting the careful reconstruction of the aftermath (as is popular in short fiction currently) Lloyd makes the brave decision to tackle the moments leading up to the action. The View From Endless Street details the deep breath taken by those with little strength for the mighty and noble deeds of the novel and is masterful in its sensitivity.

“Cheerfully alone? I’ve never heard of that. I’m cheerful because of you. Because we’re together, and safe.”

The View From Endless Street builds its tension like a comic telling the darkest of jokes. The glee with which Lloyd reveals the inevitable twists curls across the page with all the qualities of banker’s saccharine grin; these are wily fictions that wryly reveal the reader’s prejudices and punish them for their snap decisions – especially in the wonderfully off-kilter “Don’t Drink the Water”, in which a husband’s chauvinism threatens to cost him more than just his wife while on holiday in Turkey:

“I need a drink.”

“Here you are then, drink this.” Sandy seized the bottle from the windowsill and threw it at the bed.

Jim picked it up and held it too the light. “Looks fine to me,” he said. “I’ll take my chances.” And opening the lid, took a long swig from it, watching his wife’s face closely as he drank.

Whether she be poking silent fun at the misfortune of an indecisive escapist or exploring the fraught gender-political landscape of the Middle East, Lloyd’s fictions are written in a sharp and precise prose that compliments the wry humour on display. Free from drab sentimentality, The View From Endless Street is an inspiring debut that is subtler than Pratchett, sillier than Dahl and truer than Carter – fair company for all.

Phillip Clement studied English and Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University. Since he left there he has lived in a library, written short stories and reviewed books. Currently he is preparing to begin a PhD exploring themes of identity and self in fiction.

 

Review by Anonymous, Barnes & Noble website, 2014

The first story in this gorgeous collection from Rebecca Lloyd won the Bristol Short Story Prize in 2008. Here’s a sample from ‘The River’:

‘There were afternoons when the tiny choppy waves that signalled the incoming tide were yellow ochre at their crests in the low sunlight, and the writhing valleys of water between them were a war of deep blue and silver.’

Each story in The View from Endless Street is crafted with these beautiful sentences, but also pitch-perfect dialogue and a slew of quirky characters. The stories explore isolation and heartbreak, longing and loneliness, obsession, and even a touch of the macabre. That last one is called ‘Shuck.’ and is one of my favorites. You should really check it out.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-view-from-endless-street-rebecca-lloyd/1119082813?ean=9781937178482

Review by Camus, Amazon website, 2014

Beautiful dark writing – “on a night when God’s eyes must have been elsewhere”

If you like short stories then you are in for a treat. Lloyd writes with sensitivity and compassion, even while her stories are sinister. Her characters are desperate and haunting. Her language is rich, textured and nuanced.

Some examples of her beautiful writing:

“The moon was hanging in the sky….like a moist, red grape.” “…he’d a funny hatched face as if he had fallen asleep on a candlewick bedspread” “…the water was dark, all its facets sombre, slate grey and rippling” “And as I watched the beautiful serenity of the floating trash, I felt awe, if awe is a solemn quiet kind of thing that reaches deep inside you.” “we have to live in the world as it is now despite the noise, don’t we?” “…as if there were ants carrying dead things back to their nest”

And many more. This captivating, delightful collection of stories which will leave you unsettled and thoughtful.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-View-Endless-Street-Stories-ebook/dp/B00JAOKZOI

Review by Nullimortalis Jan 17, 2014

Gone to the Deep by Rebecca Lloyd

“Men gone to the deep for love of her, straight into those waiting arms.”

With the same entrancing obsession as Harman’s insistent Voice of Nature and Hughes’ clinging Dreamhouse Passages, Lloyd’s genius loci of the matchmaking island men fishing for mainland women sensitively and stylishly builds and builds until the reader, like the two main protagonists, becomes a sort of rabbit in the ‘headlights’ of The Sea’s Nature, to such an extent, remarkably, that one feels almost filthy at the experience whilst simultaneously remaining awed at some sublime power beyond love and land-greed. Endless mourning, superstition, forsakenness.

Even the story’s opening paragraph is some strange mutation of the Jane Austen opening paragraph to her most famous fiction work. No mean feat that sexily touches as deep down as our own feet with a shoe-measuring shimmer.


REVIEWS FOR: MERCY

Review by Peter Tennant, Black Static, 2014

Characters apparently talking at cross purposes, along with scenes where we can only guess at the context, are common traits in Lloyd’s fiction, devices she uses to wrong foot the reader before the gleeful reveal. Both are at work in ‘The Careless Hour’, where we expect the worst from Michael’s conversation with his female visitor, as overheard by neighbour Whitey, but the truth is even more strange, with the revelation at the end of this delightful story bringing a wry smile to this curmudgeonly reviewer’s face. …Lloyd is a new writer to me, but one I am delighted to have made the acquaintance of, and in publishing this collection Tartarus provide yet further proof that the strange tale is in a robust state of health.

http://ttapress.com/1790/new-from-tartarus-press/

Review by Randolph Carter, GoodReads, 2014

Ms. Lloyd delivers a solid batch of weird tales and strange stories, from the traditional ghost story to the truly strange. Many of the stories have an abrupt ending but it still doesn’t leave the reader high and dry. These leave an ironic taste that even says, enough said. One of the longer stories already appeared in Strange Tales Volume IV.


REVIEWS FOR: HALFLING

Review by Cat Rrar

New for January 2011 this is an adorable story aimed at the younger confident reader (9+). Danny is a young carer looking after his wheelchair-bound dad. He is learning with difficulty what it is like to have to be grown up when you are only eleven. Into his life comes Vaquita, his neighbour who everyone thought had left four years previously but who is in fact a halfling – half woman half porpoise – who longs to get back to the sea. Can Danny help and what will it mean for his own difficult life?

Your heart aches for Danny as he tries to understand his life in the context of his class project about the community and the realisation that he is a young carer. Vaquita’s story adds a touch of mystical. The writing will appeal to younger readers and mixes fact with fiction. Different. Sensitive, uplifting and very special


Reviews for: Strange Tales: Volume IV

As with previous volumes in this World Fantasy Award–winning series, this anthology of 15 new stories features the work of some of the best and brightest of the publisher’s roster of talents. In “The Secret Passage,” Rhys Hughes blends rococo fantasy and unexpected horror in a tale about a visionary who succeeds beyond his wildest dreams—and worst nightmare—in building a house from the design of a fourth-dimensional tesseract. Rebecca Lloyd’s “Gone to the Deep,” one of several dark tales that grow out of troubled marital relationships, tells of a former fisherman lured from his wife by the siren song of a creature that embodies the awe and mystery of the sea. Angela Slatter’s “The Badger’s Bride” is a charming period fantasy about a young woman who discovers the truth of the magical content of a book she is hand-copying through its impact on an animal in her care.

A number of the selections are surreal accounts of strangers traveling in strange lands, among them Mark Francis’s “For a Last Spark of the Divine,” in which a vacationer in India encounters the god behind a garish idol, and Andrew Hook’s “Drowning in Air,” about a visitor to a volcanic Japanese Island whose residents all wear gas masks. In her preface, Parker observes that “the number and quality of submissions… made the job of choosing the final selection even harder” than for previous volumes. The stories selected for this volume attest to the diversity and imaginative possibilities inherent in the strange tale.


SINGLE SHORT STORY REVIEWS

Gone to the Deep by Rebecca Lloyd (in Strange Tales Volume IV)

Review by Nullimmortalis in DF Lewis Dreamchatchers (Gestalt Real-Time Reviews)

“Men gone to the deep for love of her, straight into those waiting arms.” With the same entrancing obsession as Harman’s insistent Voice of Nature and Hughes’ clinging Dreamhouse Passages, Lloyd’s genius loci of the matchmaking island men fishing for mainland women sensitively and stylishly builds and builds until the reader, like the two main protagonists, becomes a sort of rabbit in the ‘headlights’ of The Sea’s Nature, to such an extent, remarkably, that one feels almost filthy at the experience whilst simultaneously remaining awed at some sublime power beyond love and land-greed. Endless mourning, superstition, forsakenness.

Even the story’s opening paragraph is some strange mutation of the Jane Austen opening paragraph to her most famous fiction work. No mean feat that sexily touches as deep down as our own feet with a shoe-measuring shimmer. 

Contaminator by Rebecca Lloyd (in Dead Souls, Morrigan Books 2009) 

Review by Mihai 

While he makes his way into the underground station a man witnesses a random act of violence. This is a short, but powerful story, where Rebecca Lloyd manages to inflict panic, terror and a claustrophobic feeling in its few pages.

Writer Rebecca Lloyd