Monday, August 07, 2017

Of Slightly Otherworldly Stories

An unread hard copy book on the shelves is hardly surprisingly, but I was stunned to discover that I had no recollection of buying it. It's Nicholas Yong's second book, a collection of 10 short stories in 'Track Faults And Other Glitches: Stories of the Impossible in Singapore' (2016).

Days later, I was mortified to learn that this book was on loan from the friend. He had passed it to the man, and the man chucked it into the unread pile without informing me. Had to apologize profusely and offered to buy a new copy because I had taped up the edges of the book. (I tape up all my books to prevent the edges from fraying.) Luckily the friend didn't mind. He's quite tickled. He's going to lend us another book and told me I'm welcome to tape those edges too. Hurhurhur.

Giggled as I read the title. (In the light of train breakdowns today and the Transport Minister more or less telling us to stop being dramatic because such inconvenience is unnecessary. He might even have insinuated that we're being ungrateful.) Set in Singapore, the book gives alternative realities and made the supernatural the norm. Hmm. Speculative fiction. This could go either way.

The first story 'The Ministry of Zombie Advancement' is rather hilarious. Don't bother reading into the metaphors of the big boss Permanent Zombie Secretary (PZS) and Higher Zombie Committee (HZC) within the Ministry. Protagonist Zee is a notetaker in the Ministry, and a zombie. Singapore is made up of all zombies. And this might just be about to change as Singapore is hit by a fast-spreading virus that turns zombies into humans, the greatest fear of the zombies.

"We are calling it the Revert Virus," said the Permanent Zombie Secretary.  
"Why is that?" asked one director. "Is it spread by email?" 
The PZS frowned. "No. Because it changes zombies from one state to another." 
"I don't understand. Is it...okay, never mind." The director had taken in the dirty look the PZS was giving him and wisely decided to shut up.

I like how the stories have been put together, and how 'Haru' links with 'Hui Ling'. 'Haru' mentions a cute Shiba Inu named Haru in the that story and how it summoned the Dog God Masanori via rituals in order to understand its human owners more. We were left with a cryptic line from the Dog God who issued a warning, "Don't let her go near the child." We'd know what this line meant in following related story 'Hui Ling'. We learn more of the lives of Haru's owners, husband and wife- Jeremy and Hui Ling. It describes Hui Ling's depression and despondent feelings in managing miscarriage. And a little ghost.

The one story that touches on our trains 'Track Fault', is just mind-boggling. Yes, it talks about a track fault and mentions the thoughts of the unlucky commuters on that one train that stopped right in the tunnel at peak hour, and then never came out of the tunnel again. You could read all the metaphors you think there are, but at the end of it, it's simply a train that went missing, like into twilight zone, into the Bermuda Triangle. The writing is easy, and the plots aren't so out of this world. The endings are nicely done, some with a firm conclusion, some left ambiguous but not till it's hair-pulling. 

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