Slice Of Life by Paul Haines – review

Slice Of LifeI’ll start by saying that I’m lucky enough to call Paul Haines a friend, so I don’t want any accusations of friendly bias. Think what you like, you cynical bastards.

You may remember that I was going on about the X6 novella anthology from Coeur De Lion earlier this year. There was this post about the book and this post after I’d been to the official launch. Paul had a novella in there called Wives. It is, without a doubt, the best thing I’ve read this year. Buy X6 just for Wives if nothing else. Here’s hoping it gets that Aurealis Award it’s been nominated for.

Anyway, a while ago I picked up Paul’s collection of short stories published through The Mayne Press called Slice Of Life. This, his second collection, comprises seventeen short stories, sixteen reprinted from a wide variety of original publications, and one shiny new one. Well, maybe not shiny. Kinda tarnished, with spots of something horribly unidentifiable on it. But it’s a new one. Another friend once described Paul’s work to me as “stories you can smell.” It’s a good description.

Paul’s stories are visceral, horrible, bile coated things swollen with fear and paranoia. They’re also darkly funny and uncomfortably honest. If you think he’s going to take you somewhere pretty nasty, he probably is. All the stories in here are speculative fiction, but there’s a wide range of styles – fantasy, science fiction, horror, “Paul Haines”. He really should be a genre unto himself. Especially as he casts himself as the protagonist in most stories.

The writing is excellent, the ideas bizarre and profound. Paul is a sick fuck, and I know he wouldn’t mind me saying so. In fact, he’d probably consider it a compliment. The thing that makes Paul’s writing great is that he’s fearless. If he’s following a theme, he’ll follow it to the hideous, bitter end. These are not stories for the faint-hearted or easily offended. They are stories for anyone with a love of powerful, engaging writing. I loved every yarn in this collection, though my favourites would probably be Inducing and A Tale Of The Interferers: Necromancing The Bones. The Slice Of Life stories themselves, a series of tales interconnected, are also excellent. Paul says of the stories: “Explicit, violent, mysogynistic and nasty… stories are heavily cemented in my real life, and I love blurring them into the unreal.”

Other people have said:

“Exhuberant, profane and totally whacked out” – Ellen Datlow

“visceral and thoughtful, unashamedly masculine and unabashedly emotional, and beautifully and meticulously crafted” – Martin Livings

“the anxiety in these stories is palpable. Love the paranoia! Love the self loathing. Love the psychosis” – Aurealis: Australian Fantacy & Science Fiction

Do yourself a favour. Buy this book and see just what is possible with spec fic. You’ll be supporting small press in Australia and you’ll get a great book. On top of that, all proceeds will go to Paul to help him fight cancer. Good on ya, Paul – nice work.

Get the book here. Do it. Now!

EDIT: Here’s Paul’s own website. Check it out.

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