Book Review – Chronicles From the World of Guilt

Apocalyptic stories have been around for a long time, and some of them are among the best ever told – The Road Warrior, the Fallout games, The Road, The Passage – the list goes on. Most of these tales fell civilisation as we know it with nuclear weapons, deadly viruses or even alien invasions – but how in how many ways was the world brought low by a colossal whale from beyond the stars?

Weird premise, right? Well of course it is, so it’s no surprise to me that this world of weird comes from none other than one Chris Durston, a core member of the team over at Skullgate Media and writer of Each Little Universe, a review of which you can find here.

I enjoyed Chris’s previous works, but would this rather unusual selection of tales join them in the upper echelons of Cool Indie Books I’ve Read? Will it sit on the short-story-collection podium? Be counted among the pantheon of.. oh, you get it!

Well, the short answer here is, of course, yes! One thing a Chris Durston short story can guarantee is variety and, sure enough, each tale differs radically from the next, with only the star whale Guilt or some aspect of the destruction it wreaked upon the earth ensuring any sort of commonality. Chronicles has comedy, horror, surreal and adventure stories all covered – along with several other varieties of prose in between. All of this adds up to keep the reader engaged throughout and, in my case at least, makes it very hard to choose a favourite come the end.

Something else I loved about this collection is the way the stories run in more or less chronological order. The first couple of stories are something of a grand opener, humanity going from complacency to despair as Guilt and its winged “children” approach earth from the stars and fell humanity in no time at all, making a beeline for anywhere with solid communication links and destroying indiscriminately. From there each story takes the reader deeper into the fall of humanity, the rise of new species and the way society is rebuilt from the ashes of what came before. Each story, even if radically different in tone or content from the last, is connected in this way and really strengthens the finished product.

Enriching each of these disparate tales is Durston’s innate ability to write likeable, three-dimensional characters. The good souls of his apocalypse are all waiting for you to root for them and the villains will certainly have you rueing their very existence, while some of the more farcical ones will quite possibly make you glad that the star whale has come to earth to do its thing.

Would I recommend Chronicles From the World of Guilt to the average reader? Absolutely! Durston’s quick wit and big imagination will keep you hooked until the end and that trademark surrealness that comes with his writing makes this collection stand apart from the work of so many other writers.

Give it a go, and don’t stand in Guilt’s shadow!

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