Wednesday 3 July 2013

Book review time - "Let's Kill Love" by Mark Kilner

Let's Kill Love - great titleStop for a moment and take a look around you, maybe browse a newspaper of two. There is plenty to suggest that modern life can be... well, disturbing, to say the very least. Unsettling, even. Kilner's talent, so ably and repeatedly demonstrated in this book, is to take the small horrors of life in 21st Century Britain and take them a step further...

This collection opens with the excellent short-story-as-introduction "Vanity Search". In it, a fictionalised version of the author is asked whether his work is "horror as in werewolves and goblins or horror as in psychopaths running around with knives?" With a sigh, the author replies, "I hope I don't mean either of those things." It's a nice statement of intent and entirely appropriate, because whilst there are genuine scares, moments of violence and other unpleasantness in these stories, this book is not a blood-soaked's far, far better than that. Kilner deals in the horror of small things, the horror of modern life, the horror of people and the things they do. Prepare to be deeply unsettled by the real reason for the growth in management psychobabble in "Inhuman Resources", small-time crooks and councillors (so alike, in many ways) in "That's The Way To Do It" (after which you'll never think of Punch and Judy in the same way), and the pervasion/invasion of technology in "Superficial Intelligence". Throw in a very clever slice of Ballardian fiction in "Killing Time" and the Grand Guignol novella "Postmortem" and you already have an outstanding debut collection, and that's without the eponymous "Let's Kill Love", a sobering tale for today's relationship-obsessed culture.

Being familiar with Kilner's work already, there are a couple of short stories that I had hoped would also be in this collection (I think "Run Down" and "Dead Flowers" would have sat nicely alongside the other stories here) but I hope this just means the author is holding them in reserve for his next collection, keeping his powder dry. On the evidence of this book, a new and distinctive British voice has emerged, with a talent for engaging, contemporary, psychological horror. I said at the start of this review that Kilner's skill is in taking the horrors of modern life a step further; the beauty of this it that, having read each story, you are left with something to look back on, bigger themes on which to reflect. This is no mean feat to achieve once - to do so repeatedly shows real quality.

If I was the sort of blogger to give star ratings, this would be a 4.5 star review, but whatever the rating, be in no doubt: Mark Kilner deserves to be read. Lucky for you then that "Let's Kill Love" can be snapped up on Amazon right now.

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