M. Christian, Love without Gun Control. Futures-Past Editions, 2010. Pp. 162. ISBN 9781615082162. $15.99.Reviewed by Jaym Gates
I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when Love Without Gun Control showed up to be reviewed. The cover is very retro-pulp-comic, a scene on Mars, all bright colors and simple lines, misleading as to the content. It seems more like a graphic-novel cover, or a series of 70's porn. The book itself is quite thin, only 155 pages. I was pleasantly surprised. The collection opens with the eponymous story, ‘Love Without Gun Control’, published for the first time in this collection. Ultra-violent and rather bizarre, it is somewhat reminiscent of a D. Harlan Wilson story. A sort of modern-day Western romance, the story really does defy labeling as it shows the effects of one snake-oil doctor’s ‘love potion’, applied erroneously, and the destruction that can come from thwarted desire. A fun, rollicking ride with a very unique flavor.
The second story, ‘Needle Taste’, is a unique concept with an ambiguous ending. The story itself is a totally different beast from the previous tale, but the wistful tone holds up the strange story well enough until the end, when it feels a little... abrupt. If there’s a weak one in the bunch, it’s this one, simply on a relative scale. It is in no way a bad one, it just doesn’t have quite the force of the others.
...seeking a forever-quiet man in the whole buzzing, humming, singing, cackling city.‘Hush Hush’ is my favorite story in the collection. The language is absolutely beautiful: weird, eery and slippery. The tale is half mystery, half internal journey. Whether he solves the mystery or not is really unimportant. What he learns along the way is not. This was a lovely to read for the language as for the story.
‘The Rich Man’s Ghost’ is probably my least favorite of the stories. It lacks the smoothness of voice, the weird beauty of most of the other pieces. The story is a little less Weird, too, and maybe that colors my opinion.
‘Wanderlust’ is one of the stories that I’m not really sure, at first, how I feel about it. On the one hand, the reader is kept in the dark until the very end of the story. I simply didn’t have a clue what was going on. On the other hand, the writing is very rich, so it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to enjoy the ride. A man who inspires absolute ecstasy from everyone he meets comes across a bit thin at first, but their reactions if he stays around for longer than a few minutes are... interesting.
‘Orphan’ is chilling and haunting. A young man running from something, to something, carrying a horrible secret. There were a couple of places that could have used a clarity edit or that read a little contrived, but overall, definitely a memorable piece worth reading again.
Really, though, I’d be hard-pressed to say that any story in this collection is best skipped over or read in a hurry. There’s just enough variation in the stories to keep them unique, and enough cohesion to develop a voice that just draws me in more deeply, the farther I read. (The first story is an odd difference to the rest of them, but no less enjoyable.) The cover-art remains a sticking point, as it has no apparent connection to the content, and prose like this needs something lovely to wrap it up, and what it has is not something I would be wild about displaying on a shelf.
Read this one slowly, because each story is best savored and mulled over. And I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of M. Christian’s stories.
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