Title: Alien Legends
Author: Gill Shutt
Series: A Selection From the Repository of Imagination
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction/Short Stories
Summary (from the Greyhart Press website)
The glass balls hanging in the window had no visible means of suspension. That was what first attracted the traveler’s eye. Inside each sphere was a scene from worlds fantastic and, in a few cases, barely comprehensible. Grassland rolled in the wind; a monster swam the ocean’s depths: the spheres were alive!
“Welcome to the Repository of Imagination, young sir. Do you have a tale you wish to hear…?”
For the first time, selected story spheres from the Repository have been translated into human languages. Open your mind to the splendor of other worlds, to fantastic creatures so alike you humans in some ways, yet in other ways so different. Learn the cautionary tales of those who lived aeons before you.
32 separate stories suitable for young humans aged 10-14 years, and for older readers whose sense of wonder has yet to ossify.
Greyheart Press are publishers of speculative fiction in both the standard novel form, and in short stories, novellas and novelettes. It’s interesting to see that publishers are embracing the e-book form and the popularity of shorter fiction, and I was intrigued to see what Greyhart Press were producing. So, when the opportunity to Beta read one of their upcoming novels came up, I jumped on the chance.
Alien Legends by Gill Shutt actually comes under the umbrella of Greyheart Press’s YA imprint: The Repository of Imagination. It’s a project that offers to trade ‘A Tale for a Tale’ – readers submitting stories about alien worlds from their own imaginations, and receiving another tale in return. It’s an interesting idea, and I’m all for anything that encourages young people to read and write. Alien Legends is a collection of tales from the Repository.
If the purpose of the book is to give the reader a flavour of alien worlds, then it’s entirely successful. Some of the tales are similar in structure and style to Earth mythology and legend, many of the characters relatable and almost human in their actions. However, the presence of the ‘alien’ is prominent. The cadence and rhythms of some of the tales, the syntax and vocabulary, are all cleverly used as much as the descriptions of alien worlds to create a sense of the ‘other.’
Most of the pieces are flash fiction – barely large enough to take a bite of, let alone sink your teeth into. But, perhaps wisely, there are a number of longer, meatier stories, for the reader to really engage with. My favourite stories were the ‘Rites of Passage’ featuring friends Shen and Tok undertaking a series of trials together, and the Endings stories about a girl with a special mission and how she was born.
That’s not to say the shorter stories aren’t enjoyable. The little flavours of alien worlds were intriguing. It made me think a lot of myths and parables from other cultures on our own planet, and how ‘alien’ they can be to us, but actually that all stories generally seek to explain the big ideas – who are we? Why are we here?
The variety of imagination on show throughout was incredible – I loved the idea of gaseous aliens that project what their visitors want to see into their minds, of aliens that think of everything – emotions and experiences – as colours. It was a book I didn’t have the time or leisure to just dip into, but wished I had. I would recommend it as the best way of reading. Sample a little of an alien world, savour it, think on it for a while, before moving on to the next.