The Horror Zine Review
The Silver Wind
by Nina Allan
|Paperback: 154 pages
Publisher: Eibonvale Press (October 1, 2011)
Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.4 inches
The Silver Wind
by Nina Allan
Review by Dr. Kevin Hillman
This could very well be the hardest review I have ever done, and I have done a lot of reviews. You know how sometimes you read a book and say 'That was great', and someone asks you why it was great, and you realise you can't actually explain it? Well, The Silver Wind is one of those books. Hard to explain, but I will give it a shot because this book is worth your time.
The stories interlinked like something between Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles and the Brian Aldiss novel The Eighty-Minute Hour. By the fourth story the book had started to feel like a novel and if it had been written as such, it would have been a good one.
I think I can safely say that this book has been my best read of 2011. The writing draws the reader right into the scenes, the characters are real and likeable even when they are engaged in discomforting actions and the storylines manage to make the bizarre entirely credible.
The Silver Wind is a collection of five stories, four of which are simultaneously independent tales and components of a whole. The reader follows the increasingly complex life – or perhaps lives – of Martin Newland across multiple time-lines to the final story where all is almost, but not quite, revealed.
The other principal character throughout is the dwarf watchmaker whose understanding of time goes far beyond cogs and springs. He seems to know what is going on throughout the tales and he, rather than the main character, becomes the fixed point that the tales move around.
In the first tale, ‘Time’s Chariot’, Martin has a sister. In the second, ‘My Brother’s Keeper’, he is accompanied by the ghost of his dead brother and it is here that the story throws its first real curve ball at you with the acquisition of a watch. Something so simple yet so jarring – you aren’t likely to miss that connection. It is in this story that the dwarf first appears and gives the first hint that he might be more than he seems.
The title story, The Silver Wind, answers the question of the dwarf but not of Martin, nor of his relationship with this miniature watchmaker. It is in the final story in this set, ‘Rewind’, that their relationship is at last hinted at. Not given away in a blatant summing-up but by this stage, the reader has quite enough information to reach that ‘Aha!’ moment without further help.
This isn’t a story that ‘ends’ in the traditional sense. It’s a journey through possibilities and if there is a message to take from it, it’s that there are infinite possibilities. The part of infinity this book presents is complete in itself but the reader is left with the definite impression that there could be much, much more out there.
I think it was for this reason that the final story, ‘Timelines: An afterword’ didn’t seem to fit. In a ‘standard’ collection of short stories, it is unsurprising when each story is very different from the others, but after the clear connections between the first four stories, this fifth seemed somehow out of place. There is nothing wrong with it in itself, it is a perfectly readable tale, but by this stage I had come to expect to hear more of Martin and the dwarf. There is some delicate connection between this last tale and the others in that it is also about time and timepieces but for me, at least, it did not quite fit.
Then again, maybe it does fit. The book is such a journey through timelines and possibilities that perhaps, in that final story, I simply failed to see the connection on first reading. I’ll have to read it again, which is no hardship because it’s a book that deserves a second reading. Maybe I’ll even find connections I missed first time around!
The print and editing quality in The Silver Wind is first class, just like the writing it contains. If you like your stories full of complexity, with a puzzle to solve, then this is the book for you. It will challenge, it will confuse, but most of all, it will entertain you.
In the end, that’s what it’s all about.
You can buy The Silver Wind HERE
About the author
Nina Allan’s stories have appeared regularly in the magazines Black Static and Interzone, and have featured in the anthologies Catastrophia, House of Fear, Best Horror of the Year #2 and Year’s Best SF #28. A first collection of her short fiction, A Thread of Truth, was published by Eibonvale Press in 2007, followed by the story cycle The Silver Wind in 2011. Twice shortlisted for the BFS and BSFA Award, Nina’s next book, Stardust, will be available from PS Publishing in autumn 2012. An exile from London, she lives and works in Hastings, East Sussex.
About the reviewer
Dr. Kevin Hillman
Dr. Kevin Hillman is a rogue scientist and writer who normally appears online as anyone but himself. His multiple personalities include the sensible and restrained Gutbugs and the sensible but volatile Romulus Crowe, as well as the militant Leg-iron and the utterly deranged Phineas Dume. That last incarnation wrote articles for the greatly missed AlienSkin magazine and takes the credit for most of the stories.
Kevin's short stories have appeared in From The Asylum, AlienSkin, and other online venues. His first novel, Jessica's Trap, is available from Damnation Books. Fame beckons, although fortune remains sadly elusive.
Dr. Dume was once under the control of the AlienSkin mother, but now he is loose upon the world. You can visit Dr. Dume HERE.