Looking for a decent evening’s read? Fancy a quick story without worrying about staying up too late to finish ‘one last page’? Fancy having your mind tweaked by quick, reality-altering stories that require you to get your brain into gear?
David M. Donachie’s ‘The Night Alphabet’ is 26 short stories that range from multi-page stories with startling revelations to simple two-page startlers that grab you by the shoulders, scream in your face and then drop you to wonder what the hell just happened.
Opening with a wonderful, sad tale of refugee angels displaced by a heavenly war, The Night Alphabet starts as it means to go on. In fact, that story, ‘War in Heaven’ is one of my favourites of the book followed by the atmospheric and creepy ‘The Gap’ – I won’t be looking at cracks in the wall the same way again.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The Night Alphabet, as its title suggests, runs through the 26 letters that refer to the theme of the story. ‘A is for Angels’, ‘B is for Bestiary’ and so on. Each story differs in length, tone and content, from short snappy concepts (‘The Face under my bed’) to darker tales (‘Insomniac’) to comedic, quirky stories (‘Mr Martello and the Cloud Castle’). Each story is well crafted and really captures the mood it is trying to convey, primarily the longer stories as the shorter ones feel like snippets for you to work over in your mind, like sketches before the larger canvas is painted.
The shorter stories did not linger in my mind as much as the longer ones, but they did serve to make me think about where they could have gone, or what the larger world around the tale was like. There was one, ‘The Sandwich Thief’, about an alien, that I would like to have learned more about. The strangeness, the quirkiness of the story – as with most of the stories in the book – was the draw and yes, there were times when I wanted to hear more.
Some of the stories were enjoyable but, as I said before, did not linger in my mind. The incredibly short ones, with perhaps twice as many words as this review, were over in a flash and before I had chance to settle into the tale it was over. They were interesting as they set up a premise and made you think but, without further details or context they slipped to the side to make way for the longer, more enjoyable tales.
But don’t let that put you off; The Night Alphabet is an excellent collection of well-written and enjoyable stories that make sure that you, the reader, engages your imagination. It’s a great bedside table book that you can drift into and out of, and the quirky, otherworldliness of the tales really get the brain working.