Cosmos Books (NJ) / 224 pages / (May 2001)
Sometimes, it takes the oddest irregularity to make you look at things in an entirely new way. Something as mundane as a quirk in a software/hardware marriage can let you see already treasured prose as if for the first time. HTML and my RCA ebook reader have just such a problem, that turns carefully formatted text into unbroken, undifferentiated sentences without paragraph or scene breaks. The result is almost a prose poem that allowed me to see for the first time the true poetry of Steve Savile’s work.
Stripped of formatting and supposedly essential stops, like indentations and hard page breaks, Savile’s writing reveals how unnecessary all of those crucial cues can be. The flow of his words and thoughts is so clear, so seamless, that the normal visual sign posts are almost superfluous, the import comes through effortlessly. It’s a chance to appreciate the sheer pleasure of the story. And with Steve Savile, you can bet that it is going to be a pleasure.
Readers may have missed some of these stories when they appeared the first time out. If so, this is the perfect vehicle to catch up on what Savile’s been up to and acquaint you with his memorable fiction. “Send Me Dead Flowers,” which first ran in The Edge: Tales Of Suspense #6, introduces the complex character of Gabriel Rush. Gabriel returned from this stark, tragic tale to appear in his own powerful novel, Secret Life of Colours. “Memories In Glass” appeared in the aptly entitled The Psycho Ward, but bears repeating here, even if this is a second or third reading.
These stories, like “Icarus Descending” and “Remember Me Yesterday” were far too good to miss the first time out. Cosmos Books and Savile planned well in bringing them back to find a larger audience. These tales of broken memories, dented reality, and aching loss resonate strongly with each exposure, like photos you tell yourself you won’t look at again, but cannot keep your hands and eyes off. So much of Savile’s work carries the same painful attraction, fortunately it is worth every dark shadow on the path behind you to venture into his world.
At times though, Savile’s message is not to look too closely. If there are secrets, as in the Grimm’s fairy tale nightmare of “The Fragrance of You,” there may well be good reasons that such things are hidden. In some cases, the wistful protagonist learns, you need to just take such gifts on faith; it isn’t necessary to understand everything around us. Some things we can just be grateful for, and enjoy as long as they last.
That may be the essence of this collection. Like the happiness of the faltering hero of “In Darkness We Sleep,” the veneer is razor thin, waiting for just the faintest of cracks to begin the process of shattering into a million million cutting shards. Maybe, for our own good, we should accept the rare, fleeting moments of ecstasy without looking for the “catch,” because it’s always there, waiting to slice into our lives.
Accept the gift of Similar Monsters. Revel in the beauty of the images Savile shares. And don’t think about later, about after the last page.