Friday, May 08, 2009
REVIEW: Culloden Tales
Title: Culloden Tales
Author: James McCormack
Genre: short stories, historical fiction
Price: $8.50 (paperback) $2 (download)
Point of Sale: Lulu
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib
Culloden Tales is an interesting series of interconnected short stories. It’s a terribly brief work, clocking in at a mere 61 pages, and the stories in the book are of uneven quality. Overall, I found the book enjoyable, but I hope that the author continues to work on it.
The book opens with the short story Culloden Lovers, which tells the story of two young lovers in Scotland during the last great anti-British uprising, that of Bonny Prince Charles in 1745. The author’s spare writing style well-used in this touching story. There is one fly in the ointment – a character (Andrew) appears without any introduction, which can be especially jarring in the short form.
The next story in the collection, Campfires, is closely related, telling as it were the other half of what happened in Culloden Lovers. It’s interesting, but suffers a bit from the attempt to compress a lot of time – nearly the entire uprising – in only a few pages.
In the science fiction world, a lot of classic SF tales are “fix-ups;” related short stories combined into novel length. The middle story, Bonnie Charles, which is set in modern times, was my first indication that creating a lash-up was McCormack’s goal. Bonnie Charles is the hinge story, the point about which the plot swings. It’s also the longest story, yet the least compelling of the tales.
Loch Lomond and Flight from Culloden return us to the events of 1746, and my complaint about both of these stories is that they are two short. McCormack’s prose is spare, but almost too much so – a bit of description and color would be wonderful. The last story, entitled 300 Years Later, puts a very nice bow on this collection.
Overall, I found Culloden Tales an interesting work, and the historical period covered is one overlooked by a lot of historical fiction. If the work suffers from anything, it’s the exceptional brevity of both the volume and the individual stories.