A couple of things drew me to this work. First, I've heard great things about the storytelling of James Everington - one of the Abominable Gentlemen alongside Aaron Polson, Iain Rowan and Alan Ryker. Second, I love the title Penny Dreadnought, Insidious Indoctrination Engine of the Abominable Gentlemen
. Ryker explains its meaning: "A dreadnought is a battleship, but a literal paraphrase for 'dreadnought' is 'fear nothing.' Penny Dreadnought
began as a wish to get my work alongside the most talented and fearless writers I know." This book is the first in a series of fearless short story collections featuring these four authors, brothers in the Abominable Gentlemen fraternity. And if this first installment is any indication, there's lots of fun reading to be had in the three subsequent collections.
I was struck how relationships occupy a central place throughout the collection. Whether its a brief infatuation and alliance between a soldier and resurrected woman; a blossoming regard between a little girl and a corpse hauler; a married couple struggling to make ends meet during the Great Recession; or a "friendship" between a documentary filmmaker and a homeless man, I found the depictions of the primary relationships to be realistic even under the most fantastic of circumstances.
Everington's "First Time Buyers" is my favorite story of the lot. The struggles of a young married couple struggling to make ends meet and communicate their feelings resonates with me. Like Kat and Alex, Amanda and I live in a new housing development that developers left incomplete when the money ran out. We've also argued over money matters, clung to jobs we didn't like just to pay bills, and stared unemployment in the face. Heck, we even own a small dog! It's exceedingly creepy to be living in the Great Recession while reading about the building horror experienced by relatable people living in the very same Great Recession. All four of the stories maintain this grounding in realism while exploring the unknown. And all four authors refuse to make the unknown palatable for readers. The unknown remains just that - unknown. Loose ends abound throughout Penny Dreadnought
The opening lines of Iain Rowan's "Lilies" offer a glimpse at the beautiful storytelling found throughout this collection:
It was autumn, and the city was at war. As the pavements turned slick with wet, yellow leaves, the hills to the north talked to each other in low rumbling voices. Soldiers clattered into the city in trains, spent their money in a whirl of drink and women, and left for the hills. Fewer returned. Those that did, drank more quietly, eyes on the floor, worn coats patched up against the spiteful wind. The leaves fell, the war carried on, and every day the night stole in a few minutes earlier. It was autumn, and the city was at war, and Alex was afraid.
Enjoy! I did.