Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Review of Ron Sanders For Readers Only

Title: For Readers Only
Author: Ron Sanders
Price: $15.50
Genre: Literature
ISBN: 978-0-6152-1772-7
Point of Sale: Lulu

Ron Sanders contacted me directly via POD People, and asked for a review of his works. I selected For Readers Only, which was billed on his web site as his “best of” collection of short stories. Ron is an eclectic writer, and it shows in this book. The 26 short stories in this book cover several different categories. The only way I know how to review the book is to discuss individual stories, and since I have limited time, not all will be mentioned. Before I go on, I should mention from a technical perspective that For Readers Only is as flawless a book as you will see from a major publisher. Sanders did a great job on layout and proofreading.

The first third of the book is a collection of stories with elements of magical realism, strong urban settings, and the occasional straight parody piece. A good example is the first story, Common Denominator. There’s a bit of weird goings on which are not explained, but otherwise the story is set in the here and now, an urban area vaguely reminiscent of Los Angeles. Savage Glen is a gritty tale of a modern hobo, and probably the most memorable story in the book. This is followed by another strong entry in the urban realist school, A Deeper Cut. The protagonist could be being absorbed by aliens, or he could be just going crazy. Thelma, about a little old lady’s last few days of life, was another interesting urban realist story, and surprisingly touching.

Sanders’ collection then switches over to a more science fiction setting. Home Planet is a pretty interesting tale of Earth’s demise. This is followed by Shade, which is a Lovecraftian “unspeakable horrors” tale. The three related tales of The Fartian Chronicles has Earth invaded by exceptionally kind aliens, who find the kind of urban grifters and punks of the first half of the book entirely too much to handle. They are science fiction parody, and one either buys into the parody or not.

We then transition back to urban parody with ScanElite, about an unscrupulous literary agent (there are no other kinds in Sander’s world) with a very familiar name. The reader is then hit by three parody pieces in a row, Why I Love Democracy, The Book of Ron, and the ever-timely Vote For Me. Although these were interesting works, they all express strong opinions of the “South Park Republican” school of thought, so if you’re easily offended, beware.

Overall, the collection is a very eclectic book. I’ve classed it as literature, because a lot of these stories would not be out of place in the type of student review put out by a small college English department. Where Sanders goes for a straight realism, as in Savage Glen, A Deeper Cut or Thelma, he’s enjoyable and interesting. Some of the parody pieces were a bit heavy-handed, although if you enjoy Mad Magazine (either the print or the TV version) you’ll like this as well. For Readers Only is an enjoyable work, if somewhat scattershot.


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