I first encountered Michel Faber last year when I listened to the audiobook Under The Skin. I was mesmerized by that vaguely creepy tale of an alien in humanesque form, patrolling the Scottish highways and byways. Since then, I’ve read The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps, The Book of Strange New Things and now this book of stories. It is an incredibly varied collection, veering from that literary sci-fi, to Shirley Jackson-like horror, to modern day dystopic tales, to lovely lyrical prose right out of Granta.
In “The Eyes of the Soul” Jeanette lives with her young son in an estate house, it’s front window overlooking the main road and all the squalor of this troubled neighborhood. The cops are a constant presence, but petty crime and hooliganism is prevalent and she routinely has to pull bits of hypodermic needles out of her son’s trainers. It’s a deeply depressing place. One day she is visited by a saleswoman that represents Outlook Innovations, which sells screens that are laid over windows, providing a wholly different view: a beach overlook, an organic sheep farm or a lovely English Garden. She is surprised to find that she actually feels something akin to peace or happiness again, as she gazes at a sparrow hopping amongst the flowers and shrubs and the afternoon races by as she kneels, enthralled by the scene. In Beyond Pain, Morpheus is the drummer for North Ayrshire’s foremost death metal group, Corpse Grinder. He is now living in Budapest with his girlfriend as the band, after years of struggle prepares for an Eastern European tour supporting Slayer. He awakes with a headache, which is entirely foreign to him, his motto being “Pain is an illusion, power of the mind, mate!”. He becomes so ill and for so long that the band goes on without him, enjoying some level of success at last, while Morpheus begins to define himself as something other than a drummer in a death metal band.
I enjoyed these stories immensely and look forward to more innovative work from Mr. Faber.