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by Andrew Hook

(Halfcut Publications, 130 pages, paperback; ISBN: 0-9549535-1-7.)

Review by Mario Guslandi

A versatile author whose work ranges from speculative to dark fiction, from SF to slipstream, Andrew Hook has produced so far the acclaimed collections The Virtual Menagerie and Beyond Each Blue Horizon.

Residue, his latest collection assembling nineteen stories - some brand new, some previously published in various magazines - is somehow an atypical book where Hook displays another side of his writing ability which expands beyond the boundaries of genre fiction to focus on human condition and human relationships.

A non-genre body of work Residue in other words presents us with an intimist version of this writer, who, with a disenchanted view of the world and of its human inhabitants, explores the secrets of relations such as friendship, love stories, office acquaintances ("Paper aeroplanes", "Doors, windows & gutters", "Document").

Nothing escapes Hook's inexorable analysis: love affairs undergo a ruthless autopsy ("Never doubt my love for you"), male sexual fantasies are depicted and dissected as in the outstanding "People you know who excite you" and, most of all, the more basic and perilous of human relationship, that between man and woman, is examined with a sense of pity, comprehension and human sympathy ("Tight").

Plots vary. In "Dirt" a loner observes his life trapped in a downward spiral, while in "The stone box" - a perfect, tiny piece of fiction - a stone retrieved from the river becomes the key to a beloved memory.

Sometimes, however, plots do not exist or do not matter at all and the story is constituted by sheer introspection, where the author digs into his own soul to unearth fragments of truth which concern us all.

This book will entertain you, because Hook is an excellent writer, but, more importantly, will make you think -- which is what fiction should always do.

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