Tales from the Parkland - by Ronald McGillvray
Tales from the Parkland is a collection of 11 short stories and a longer novella, added to the end of the book. I think the ratio – to give you a feeling, is that the novella takes 40% of the book at the end. Now that creates an interesting showcase of Ronald’s talents – we get to experience his shorts, but also get to see him tackling a novella, which obviously demonstrates a separate skill set, and honestly, I actually appreciated that novella in the back of the book, by the time I had gotten to it, the stories had (in my opinion) strengthened, I liked them more and more as the collection progressed. I was already commenting in my notes that I would like to see (at some point) something a little longer to see how Ronald handled character development and a story with a little more world-building, and then there it was. So - Kudos on the layout of the book. It worked – for me.
I’m not going to break the collection down, story for story, but I was impressed by the overall quality of the shorts. The stories at the end appealed to me more, but the range of stories on show here was the payoff – you have everything from zombie apocalypses to Acidic rain, paranormal snuff to alien body invasion. There were a couple of shorts that felt as if they had been taken from bigger works – and lacked closure (Ubiquity – and Big Boy), but the content of those stories was nevertheless great. McGillvray also tackled repugnant characters – A night out – for example, a great short about Date Rape gone wrong. Tackling themes like that shows (for me) a sensibility to raw topics, and Ronald handled it well – not everyone can write the POV of an abhorrent character without bias or resorting to stereotypical drama – I was repulsed by the character yet was still wishing he would get the hell out of there, an interesting combination of warring emotions. Nicely done, Ronald. To make an analogy here, the shorts feel like photos on the fireplace of Ronald’s house. You can only get glimpses, but they each tell a story unrelated to each other, and that showcase leaves you wanting to look at a larger album.
The Bonus Novella is a creature feature, a mix of Zombie apocalypse and survivor tale. It runs well, and you get the feeling Ronald had a blast when writing it. The storytelling here feels a lot more relaxed like the novella is McGillvray’s playground, and now he can really show you the fun stuff. The villain is a little obvious, but It’s hard to imagine it otherwise - with a name like Doctor slaughter, you know what she is as soon as she appears on the page – and that’s fine – Novellas are kept short enough to make their point, but large enough to have character development and a bit of world-building. In that regard, it feels a little like a movie – some tongue in cheek is to be embraced rather than scorned. I liked the novella, Ronald. It felt like being invited to dinner at your place.
Highlights for me were Acid rain (though it reminded me of that scene in the film “Volcano”) due to the tension – good work there, Ronald! Orphans played well to dashing my expectations, and A Night Out for the reasons as outlined above.
A solid introduction to Ronald’s work – and for the breadth and scope of the shorts, as well as the quality of the writing, this gets a well deserved 4 out of 5 ⭐ ‘s from me.
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