I’m frequently disappointed with short stories because all too often they can feel unfinished in one way or another, leaving me feeling frustrated and dissatisfied. However, as this collection is being published by Meerkat Press, and as I have never yet been disappointed with anything from publisher Tricia Reeks, I was encouraged to feel optimistic that I would be in for a treat. To my delight, as soon as I read the first story, “Union Falls” (about an armless piano player and full of humour, pathos and a touch of magical “other-worldliness”) I knew that my optimism would be rewarded!

I immediately felt captivated by J.S. Breukelaar’s evocatively descriptive style, her convincing observations of human behaviour and the incisive quality of her dialogue. At times it felt as though her characters, and the worlds they inhabited, were leaping off the page, demanding my full attention. Although each of the stories is very different, what remains constant throughout the collection is the author’s skill in drawing her readers into the fantastical worlds she is describing. Yet these are worlds which, albeit in slightly distorted ways, are often all too easily recognisable, possibly because there is always an element of people struggling to make sense of, and adjust to, the world they are inhabiting. Although there were themes of violence, horror, terror, cruelty and pain, these were offset by unexpected moments of humanity, delight, love and hope. For me, one of the most satisfying aspects of reading these stories was this “unexpected” quality; reading them felt akin to going on a voyage of discovery, with surprises around every corner.

At the end of each story the author adds notes to explain what had inspired it. I really appreciated this because it added a very welcome extra dimension to my reading, allowing an intimate glimpse into her creative thought-processes. Her writing is both bold and elegant, quite an unusual combination but one which she manages with impressive, and enviable, style.

Keith Rosson, the supremely talented illustrator and author, designed the eye-catching cover, which evocatively captures something of the energy and unexpected twists and turns which run through the stories. In addition, his dramatic black and white illustrations, which appear throughout the book, add yet another rich dimension to the power of these stories.

Whatever your favourite fantasy genre – horror, mystical, gothic, magical, science-fiction, dystopian – you will be sure to find it in this remarkable collection, sometimes even merged in one story!

Without writing a separate review of each of these tales it’s difficult to do full justice to the quality of this author’s writing, but what it is very easy to do is to urge you to read these haunting, disturbing and thought-provoking stories for yourself. If you enjoy the weird, the quirky and the unexpected, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Linda Hepworth 5/5

Collision by J.S. Breukelaar
Meerkat Press LLC 9781946154170 pbk Feb 2019