Fiction Reviews

The Devil Delivered and Other Tales

(2012) Steven Erikson, Bantam Press, £16.99, hrdbk, 336pp, ISBN 978-0-06779-6


Ta-da-da, here we have “three extraordinary stories” from Steven Erikson, 'author of the bestselling The Malazan Book of the Fallen, of which, I reckon there are about eleven novels in the series penned by Erikson, but as he co-created the Malazan 'concept' for a role-playing game with Ian C. Esselmont over thirty years , Esselmont has written his own Malzanian books. The Devil Delivered and Other Tales has absolutely nothing to do with that bestselling series, but in order to keep with the look of Erikson’s other books, Bantam have produced a book with a really, really, naff cover, just do not let that put you off buying this book and enjoying the extraordinary tales within.

But, first, an introduction as this book is dedicated 'To Peter Crowther, with love', not surprising as all three of these stories were first published by Crowther’s PS Publishing, in fact, an original copy of the last of the three tales collected here, the marvellously bonkers 'Fishin with Grandma Matchie' lurks inside a box somewhere in the dusty attic of Hunter Towers.

The Devil Delivered collects three novellas – 'The Devil Delivered', 134 pages long, 'Revolvo', just over a 100 pages long and 'Fishin with Grandma Matchie', the runt of the litter at just over a mere 80 pages long, and each one is very different.

First, 'The Devil Delivered' is a powerful apocalyptic story about a huge hole in the ozone layer and the effects it is having on the ground beneath it in a world where greed and mismanagement of the natural resources, disease and war have basically ruined the Earth, so what is there left to do? Jump planet, maybe after sucking every last drop of what has left to offer along the way? Being objective, this is probably the stand-out tale of the book, but not an easy read due to the subject matter, Erikson’s heartfelt comments and viewpoint and a narrative style that mixes up a straightforward narrative with instant messaging, and various log book entries, flashbacks and Native American vision quests.

In 'Revolvo' we are on an alternative Canada and on unfamiliar ground for Erikson devotees as this is a satire on the rich and famous and celebrity and art, and well, everything from society, economics, to the role of the media, Despite being fantastic, with many fantastical creatures walking or slithering through the narrative, it has much to say about the celebrity culture and the mis-matched society in which we live in now.

Finally, in 'Fishin with Grandma Matchie', a nine year old boy is writing a what-I-did-on-my-holidays essay for school and recounts in his own unique writing style the story of his summer holidays and a fishing trip like no other in the company of his grandmother, although it is pretty easy to go fishing with her as she actually lives at the bottom of a lake and rides a giant snapping turtle. Is this just a yarn, or could it be true? This is most fantastical of the three tales, and also my favourite. Just think Deputy Dawg on acid, dagnabit, I did.

If you are a fan of Erikson, then you will probably want to read this very diverse collection, but you still should even if you aren’t.

Ian Hunter

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