Despite the title, most of the nine stories in this collection are better if you don’t over-think them. They are modern morality tales which consider some of the more challenging aspects of 21st century life in the light of long-established ethical principles. The majority are short and sweet and fairly straightforward; few contained any great surprises. Not sure why the cover art features an android. Spoiler alert: low robot content!
The author frequently leans on paranormal possibilities to illustrate her point, and the pendulum swings between the light and the dark. Social isolation, victimisation, corruption and criminality are countered by friendship, compassion, generosity and open-minded acceptance.
Entire lifespans are compressed into a few pages to illuminate the all-too finite boundaries of mortal existence, pausing at pivotal moments when everything depends on a crucial choice. We see the paths which might’ve been taken – and how critical decisions have consequences that can echo down the generations.
The majority of these tales deliver an upbeat, positive message – even if the author ventures deep into the murky side of the human psyche to explore bigotry, bullying and betrayal. So in Transfusion the theme is of overcoming hostility, being the better human, and treating others not as they actually behave towards you but as we would all want to be treated. In The Debt a determined young woman digs deep to defy a savage gangster and becomes the conduit of justice – avenging a personal debt in the process.
Several of these stories take a supernatural turn, where the protagonist is given a second chance at life under the watchful eye of a spiritual entity. Love and dedication reduce the emotional impact of the inevitable end. These are all intimate portraits of personal crisis, but some are set against the vast backdrop of societal turmoil and world history. Inevitably the pandemic plays its role in a couple of pieces, as does climate change, while Full Circle looks back to holocaust and examines how its horrors reverberate today.
The shorter stories are the more successful, I feel; the extended tales tend towards being over-written and a bit long-winded. Their message gets diluted by their length, not enhanced. Speaking of which, this is a longer review than I expected to write while I was reading this collection, which may mean it was more successful in provoking cogitation than I originally understood…
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Short Stories For Thinkers by Francesca Flood is available at Amazon
Moral philosophy mixed with murder:
Meet a complicated contract killer in A Last Act Of Charity