Gerry and the Gin Factory and Other Short Stories, by Kirk Battle
I am never quite sure how to talk about short story collections- do I talk about each story, just one, or all of them collectively?
Collectively, there are five stories in the collection, all on the longer end of the short story spectrum (this isn't a bad thing, but certainly different than the five Planks stories). The range from the satirical titular story to the romantic, in the last story, Long Distance.
Gerry & the Gin Factory (the story) is a funny, drunken take on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, except replace 'chocolate' with 'booze'. It is well executed, particularly the perpetually drunk citizens of Drinkydoo (my favorite was the kid who wanted to try being sober, but his parents wouldn't let him). It was a little slow in parts, but all in all, I enjoyed it.
Long distance, on the other hand, is much more concise and poignant. A love story set against a backdrop of intercepting signals from an alien culture, and seeing and seeking to understand their language, culture, sex and behavior. Or, if you prefer- a story about intercepting signals from an alien culture set against the backdrop of a love story. One serves as an excellent analogy for each other, and both parts of the story are wonderfully executed.
Baseline Assessment: 5/10. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this- a couple, like Long Distance, I read a couple times. The writing is great and flows very well. The characters are interesting, deep and engaging, and all the stories in the collection are solid, even though they are varied.
Bonuses: +1 for originality. I can't really put my finger on it, to be honest, but I really enjoyed Battle's take on things. In Long Distance, the effect of the aliens on the internet at large is woven throughout. It felt like a first contact story set in the real world, rather than the traditional vacuum they seem to traditionally seem to be set in, wrapped in cloaks of government secrecy.
+1 for doing all the crap I talk about all the time. I like the cover of Ol' Grandpa, the boozy Willy Wonka. It is well edited, and everything flows. I almost don't want to add this, or point it out, because doing so draws attention to it, but for all that I harp on about quality in self-publishing, Battle nailed it.
Penalties: None. This is a good good book. Probably not a classic, but enjoyable from beginning to end, and well worth your time.