17 June 2014

Richard Van Holst's review of 'Out on Top', a new collection of short stories by Steve Morris

This new collection of short stories by Steve Morris has some family ressemblances to his earlier work, because we see some familiar themes emerging.
His protagonists are often misfits, or at least maladjusted in some way, and therefore they stand in some sense outside of mainstream society looking in. In this book, good reasons are given for this, such as lack of maturity, or past trauma. But let's face it; we all like to root for the underdog. And this makes it all the more possible to get into these stories.
Steve seems to enjoy sports. I surmise this from the way in which his characters participate in them with such great intensity. Steve can convey the adrenaline of the individual team member as well as the spellbound fascination of the spectators.
I suspect that Steve also has a great affection for animals. For he writes about them, sometimes with humour and sometimes with pathos. He tries something here which I think is new for him: one tail tale is narrated partly from an animal's point of view!
I know for a fact that Steve has an interest in science fiction and the paranormal. This comes through strikingly in a few of the stories. For instance, the bizarre method by which one of his heroes discovers the answer to a troubling crime is quite startling. But Steve somehow manages to make it believable.
I know that Steve is an educator as well as a writer. His specialty is math and sciences so I doubt whether he ever delivered a history lecture quite like the lesson described in one particular story. But I still had fun imagining him in the role of the teacher.
As for his personal life, I don't know any more about that than a friend should, but I think Steve must be a bit of a hopeless romantic. Why do I say this? Well, in this collection there are a number of cases in which couples find each other and true love, despite histories and circumstances which have rendered success less than likely. And one is both amused and delighted by the way in which they beat the odds.
While the tales in his previous collections were quite short, Steve has in the meantime tried his hand at another genre and produced a novel. So I think perhaps this is why these stories vary more in length and structure. But he still has the knack of packing a lot of detail in a few pages and providing some surprise endings.
Richard Van Holst, Goodreads.

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