Peter Crowther and James Lovegrove

Paul Bradshaw, Illustrated by Gerald Gaubert

Sarah Singleton, Illustrated by Gerald Gaubert

Maynard Sims Productions, 64 pages

Enigmatic Press, 59 pages

Enigmatic Press, 63 pages

ISBN: 0953606600

Aren’t chapbooks wonderful things? You get to discover the tremendous variety of talent out there without committing to a full length novel. After all, these people are British; you don’t want to get too attached to them. That might just be too far away. Maybe so, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself craving more from these unique, talented, and offbeat authors.

You may not recognize James Lovegrove’s name; most of his work has been published in the UK. If you have chanced upon a copy of Escardy Gap or the YA novel The Web: Computopia, you will be delighted to see his name pop up here. Personally, I am going to make it a point to nab a copy of Days, so that I can see society merrily running amok. What I’ve seen in The Hand That Feedsconvinces me that I want to read more.

Remember Peter Crowther? He brought us the stunningly original short stories in Lonesome Roads. You went out and bought a copy? Good! Get ready for an equally powerful tale in a different, almost Victorian vein in “The Hand That Feeds.” Prepare to meet a group of people you may have suspected existed, but could never quite prove it. Travel back to the 40s to meet the real power behind the scenes. Lovegrove and Crowther have created such an intriguing group that it seems a shame to let them go. Perhaps they will return in further adventures.

Ah! The things that go on around us that we never see! But, then, that is a common thread in this trio of chapbooks.

Martin knows that something is going on in “The Vanishers,” but no one else cares to hear about it. If people are turning up missing it is no business of those who remain, he learns in no uncertain terms. What does it take to actually live? What constitutes an existence, when the focus of a life disappears?

And what of those people who seem to have no lives? John takes the step to actually meet one of “The Lonely Ones.” Surely, with his support, she can leave that hazy existence. Well, you might think, but nothing is quite that sure in the world of Alternate Lives.

A neighbourhood barter program introduces everyman Michael to a place where nothing is quite as it is seen In the Mirror. Michael’s own life is not all that he might wish it were, so any change is a welcome change — he thinks. Things on the other side of the mirror might not be the cure-all he is searching for. Rosa, a resident of that other region, is both more and less than he thinks at first.

What makes us human? What makes us alive? What is it that we need from the people around us to make us whole?

Three exceptional chapbooks with a vitally important theme. It would be nice if these stories gave us pause, caused us to examine the shadows around us more closely. “Nice,” but not likely, according to these authors. People are people and human nature is virtually set in stone; a genuine, lasting change just may be beyond such simple creatures.

If these authors can see the other side, though, there just might be hope for the rest of us. We can only wish.