Robert Swartwood - Real Illusions (3 stars)

First story collection of works of unreal fiction



Robert Swartwood’s first story collection is a world of small, ordinary miracles: a father escapes from the car wreck that kills his wife, but discovers that he is now immune to physical harm; two boys on the run are saved by a vengeful ghost; a teenager buys a vanishing trick for his brother, only for his entire life to be erased, piece by piece. The stories are told in clean, uncluttered prose, and the homely settings – a suburban home, a junk shop, a farmhouse – lend believability to the more fantastical story elements.

For a fantasy reader, there are few surprises here. Although the unreal elements are cleverly introduced, once this surprise is revealed the stories unfold just as a seasoned reader might expect. However, if you’re new to the world of unreal fiction then this is not a bad place to start, as the familiar settings and spare language provide a good bridge between realism and fantasy.
Swartwood is best known for his work in one-sentence stories, and some of these longer pieces might have more impact if pared right back to the bone.

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