On his eponymous site, Robert Sharp, author of the Shirley Jackson Award nominee THE GOOD SHABTI, reviews his four competitors in the novella category.
I’m delighted and honoured to have been nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award, for my novella The Good Shabti, published by Jurassic London. However, there are four good reasons why I probably won’t win.
The premise of We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory (Tachyon) could have, in the hands of lesser driver, become a car crash of clichés and inside jokes. We’ve all seen single panel cartoons where monsters, Star Trek red-shirts or superheroes find themselves in group therapy or on the shrink’s couch. Contrasting their extraordinary adventures with real-life anxieties is always a funny, one-note gag. But Gregory does something far, far better with this idea. Instead of recycling existing pop-culture properties, he presents a group of new characters, each with a different and equally harrowing trauma to overcome. A man who has had his limbs cut off and eaten by cannibals. A woman whose torturer carved art right onto her bones. And Harrison Harrison, a reluctant right-place-at-the-right-time Everyman who is trying to come to terms with life after having managed to outwit a supernatural psychopath. Some of the members of the group therapy are reluctant to tell their stories, and their dæmons (both metaphorical and literal) are revealed at just the right pace.
The ‘therapy’ premise must, necessarily I think, also be a comment on genre stories, and my favourite part of We Are All Completely Fine is its riposte to Joseph Campbell‘s Hero’s Journey. Unlike the popular monomyths, Daryl Gregory’s story does not end with all the monsters vanquished and the heroes destinies neatly fulfilled. Their terrifying predicament remains, they don’t get closure, and one has the sense that for these people, the narrative continues after we leave them. As a result, the world of this novella seems particularly real, despite the fire angels and mutant spider women.
Read the rest of Sharp’s reviews at his blog.
For information on WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY FINE, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story.