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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Oddities & Entities by Roland Allnach (TOUR REVIEW)

Short story collections are generally hit-or-miss. When you get right down to it, they're only as good as their strongest entry, or as bad as their weakest. Oddly, with one or two notable exceptions, Oddities & Entities is one collection that was largely even all the way through - not exactly stellar, but still solid enough to keep me reading.

The stories themselves were somewhat oddly structured, coming cross as more through and fully developed than most. What Roland Allnach offers us here is a series of mini novels, each with a detailed introduction and resolution to bookend them. When reading short stories I tend to prefer a little more immediacy, a little less effort wrapping things up, but the approach here works. It's unusual, and requires a bit of patience on the part of the reader, but there's something to be said for consistency of style and execution.

In terms of content, there's a little dark humour here to balance out the creepiness, a healthy dose of psychology to balance out the supernatural, and some rather inventive gore to balance out the human sentiment. The characters are deep, and particularly well-developed for a short story, owing to the amount of backstory worked into each. It's also a very literate collection, with some high profile language and exceptionally strong turns of phrase.

"Shift/Change" was a favourite of mine, a darkly inventive story that's full of very human horrors. "Me Other Me" had a bit of a Stephen King feel to it, both in terms of tone and concept. "Elmer Phelps" was another favourite, taking a well-known horror trope, turning it on its head, and surprising me with something altogether new. On the surface, "Appendage" seemed like it should have been a winner, reminding me in many ways of an early Dean Koontz tale, but it lost me somewhere along the way. I'd have to give that one a second read, just to see where we parted ways, and to see if I can find my way back into the heart of it.

Despite the pacing, this is a still a strong collection with enough imagination and style to carry even the most jaded reader through to the end.

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About the Author
Roland Allnach has been writing since his early teens, first as a hobby, but as the years passed, more as a serious creative pursuit. He is an avid reader, with his main interests residing in history, mythology, and literary classics, along with some fantasy and science fiction in his earlier years. Although his college years were focused on a technical education, he always fostered his interest in literature, and has sought to fill every gap on his bookshelves.

By nature a do-it-yourself type of personality, his creative inclinations started with art and evolved to the written word. The process of creativity is a source of fascination for him, and the notion of bringing something to being that would not exist without personal effort and commitment serves not only as inspiration but as fulfillment as well. So whether it is writing, woodwork, or landscaping, his hands and mind are not often at rest.

Over the years he accumulated a dust laden catalog of his written works, with his reading audience limited to family and friends. After deciding to approach his writing as a profession, and not a hobby, the first glimmers of success came along. Since making the decision to move forward, he has secured publication for a number of short stories, has received a nomination for inclusion in the Pushcart Anthology, built his own website, and in November 2010 realized publication for an anthology of three novellas, titled Remnant, from All Things That Matter Press. Remnant has gone on to favorable critical review and placed as Finalist/Sci-fi, 2011 National Indie Excellence Awards; Bronze Medalist, Sci-Fi, 2012 Readers Favorite Book of the Year Awards; and Award Winner-Finalist, Sci-Fi, 2012 USA Book News Best Book Awards. Roland’s second publication, Oddities & Entities, also from All Things That Matter Press, followed in March 2012. It, too, has received favorable critical review, and is the recipient of four awards: Bronze Medalist, Horror, and Finalist, Paranormal, 2012 Readers Favorite Book of the Year Awards; Award Winner-Finalist, Fiction/Horror and Fiction/Anthologies, 2012 USA Book News Best Book Awards.

His writing can best be described as depicting strange people involved in perhaps stranger situations. He is not devoted to any one genre of writing. Instead, he prefers to let his stories follow their own path. Classification can follow after the fact, but if one is looking for labels, one would find his stories in several categories. Sometimes speculative, other times supernatural, at times horror, with journeys into mainstream fiction, and even some humor- or perhaps the bizarre. Despite the category, he aims to depict characters as real on the page as they are in his head, with prose of literary quality. His literary inspirations are as eclectic as his written works- from Poe to Kate Chopin, from Homer to Tolkien, from Flaubert to William Gibson, from Shakespeare to Tolstoy, as long as a piece is true to itself, he is willing to go along for the ride. He hopes to bring the same to his own fiction.

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