Showtime by Narrelle M Harris is one of the Twelve Planets series published by Twelfth Planet Press (12 boutique collections of stories by Australian women writers). It is made up of four shorter stories, including:
- The Truth About Brains
Continuing the Twelve Planets trend of very differently themed collections, Showtime uses traditional horror characters (ghosts, zombies and vampires) to tell this set of stories.
The prose of this collection is clean, with appealingly streamlined language and deceptively simple plot lines. This was one of the more satisfying parts of the book, good stories clearly told with enough interesting ideas to remain thought provoking.
While there is some violence in the stories, it is incidental and not the focus of the collection. The collection should appeal to those that like the concepts of horror, but aren’t attracted to over the top gore-fests that sometimes make their way into horror movies and books. Indeed, at least two of the stories had more of an urban fantasy feel than horror.
Stalemate is set in a typical Australian suburban kitchen, and starts off with what seems like a very un-speculative and often repeated airing of issues between a woman and her ageing mother. The pacing of this story was very good, with the gradual slide into the speculative aspects of the story handled particularly well. The ending was particularly satisfying.
Thrall tells the story of an ancient vampire, Dragomir, and his failed attempts to deal with modern society, including issues like every bozo with a mobile phone being able to video your attempts to lure a victim to their doom. The rendition of an old vampire, yearning for the world of their undead youth and deploring the trappings of the 21st century, was refreshing. The story revolves around Dragomir’s views of the world around him and decision to retreat to home soil in Hungary to wait out these irritating trends.
The other main character in the story is Erzsebet, a woman in her late middle age whose family has been enthralled to the vampire throughout the generations. The interplay between the two forms the core of the story. Both characters were interesting for different reasons, and this was probably my favourite story in the collection.
The Truth About Brains is a suburban zombie story. While I found this story the most difficult to relate to (the age of the protagonists and the suburban setting weren’t really my cup of tea), the writing was very good. There was a backstory that was hinted at in this book, regarding the parents of the protagonist and their own zombie experiences, that caught my interest. That would be a story I wouldn’t mind reading if Ms Harris ever writes it.
Showtime, the last story in the collection, tells the story of Gary and LIssa, two characters from Ms Harris’ previous book The Opposite of Life. Gary is a vampire and Lissa is human, and they work together as an investigative team. The story is set at the Melbourne Show, which makes an interesting setting. This story has the most urban fantasy feel of the collection.
Again Showtime gave a good take on a vampire character. I particularly liked the concept that becoming undead made the brain slow down a little, reducing intuition and making it harder to learn things.
While Ms Harris does a good job sketching in enough background that those new to Gary and Lissa can follow along, I suspect that those that have read The Opposite of Life would get more out of this story. However, there was enough in this to make me want to read more, so I’ll be tracking down a copy of The Opposite of Life in the near future.
I’ve been impressed with the whole Twelve Planets collection so far, and Showtime continues that trend. A highly recommended (and very quick) read.
I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.
This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.