Triquorum One: an anthology by John Grant, Allen Ashley and Lavie Tidhar
pub: Pendragon Press. 126 page enlarged paperback. Price: £ 5.99 (UK). ISBN: 0-9538598-7-8.
This slim volume is an anthology of three 'novelettes': The 'Interloper' by Allen Ashley, John Grant's 'The Thirty-Million Day Dance Card' and 'Leaves Of Glass', Lavie Tidhar's contribution.
It's a very interesting selection, if a little uneven in quality. Each story attempts to provide a glimpse into a darker, more surreal side of possibility.
'The Interloper' by Allen Ashley takes John Taylor, an ordinary if somewhat weak man and asks what if we truly have no control over our lives? Over any aspect of it? What if our illusion of control is so fragile, so tenuous, that our self-determination can be taken from us at any time?
The first half of the story is thoroughly creepy and disturbing but then the author introduces a rather odd deus ex machina that, while designed I believe to exemplify Taylor's complete opposite and depict a being in full control of his destiny, actually detracts from the force of the story for me. I would have found it far more compelling if the agency behind the relentless events remained shadowy and unknown. I also found it very hard to empathise with Taylor, who is a completely ineffectual wimp whom I wanted to kick up the backside. Although that may be simply because I've never been acquainted with a real person like him and hope I never am!
Lavie Tidhar's 'Leaves Of Glass' takes a historical poet, sticks him in what is to all intents and purposes an acid dream and interacts with a variety of other historical literary figures. If there was a point to this story it missed me completely although I found the tale so unengrossing I may have skimmed parts and therefore overlooked it.
The middle story, 'The Thirty-Million Day Dance Card', however, makes up for the shortcomings of the other two. John Grant's writing is, as ever, polished and elegant and is a delight to read. The characters are sympathetic, the situation poignant and immediately comprehensible and the resolution heart-warming. It helps, of course, that Grant has taken as his subject something that probably all humans would grab without a second's hesitation if given the opportunity, but the wonderfully realistic way in which he handles the theme makes the reader wonder how they would react in the same circumstances.
What really spoiled the book for me, though, was the Introduction by Paul Di Filipo, which is full of spoilers for all three stories. To anyone buying a copy, do yourself a favour, skip the intro and go straight to the tales and if Pendragon publish any more in the series and I hope they do, please don't let Di Filipo write the introduction!