Review- Nothing is Strange

Nothing is Strange by Mike Russell

4/5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 144
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication date: December 31, 2015

25099252A man called Dunce who is bald with a pointed head, a couple who wishes that their genitals would fall off, and a clone who gets locked up in a shed, are all different types of people who make appearances in Nothing is Strange. The 20 short stories exist in their own fantastical lands that each have their own special laws of physics. What happens when right arms are nonexistent or the act of crying is never heard of? These things are just normal occurrences in Mike Russell’s writings.

Earlier this year, I was gifted a copy of Mike Russell’s other book, Strange Medicine. It was the first short collection in a long time that I actually enjoyed. I went into Nothing is Strange with high expectations and I was not disappointed. Thank you to the Strange Books team forsending me this title!

Mike Russell has a brain similar to Douglas Adams’. His stories make almost no sense at all, which actually makes them sort of make sense. He begins each short story in a world with at least one strange concept and then builds off of that with seemingly random events and characters. Reading his work is almost like riding a roller coaster, except you can’t see and don’t know where all the curves and drops are. Although, I don’t like roller coasters, but I liked Nothing is Strange.

My favorite thing about these short stories is that most of them don’t make any sense until the last paragraph or last sentence. Or in some cases, the stories don’t make any sense and the last sentence makes even less sense. For example, “Lesley Visits the Barber” ends with “thus beginning the universe”. While reading the story, I had no idea where I would end up, but the beginning of the universe was not it. I haven’t read a book that blindsided me so many times since finishing the “Dirk Gently” series a few years ago. That’s truly saying something about Mike Russell’s writing technique.

I also want to comment on the story length, as I think it says a lot. The stories range from 3 to 9 pages. That is not very much room to develop a made-up world and characters. The fact that Mike Russell can give enough detail and context for a reader to imagine the setting of each story is amazing. While reading Nothing is Strange, I never felt confused due to the short length of the book.

It’s clear to me that it takes quite a bit of talent to successfully write a collection of short stories such as Nothing is Strange. I’m so honored that Strange Books sent me a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. It was such an enjoyable read for me, as I love science fiction. If you’re a fan of Douglas Adams, you’ll love this book.