Review: The Exploding Boy and other tiny tales, Nick Parker

Because the mainstream print world currently won’t provide oxygen for a format like this – flash fiction – we have to be thankful to self-publishing platforms for delivering this to us.

I’ll admit that my reason for buying a digital copy was just to quickly and cheaply see what a non-own self-published title looks like for my own benefit, but I’m not reviewing this just to give kudos to another writer, but because I actually love this collection.

If you’re someone who’s strapped for time or just doesn’t like reading long works, or just wants to step away from phone book volumes for a little while, I’d definitely advise giving this a go. In paperback form it’s a svelte 107 pages.

Why was I first attracted to this book? Other than having my ‘comrade indie author’ radar on, I spotted an enticing Guardian review about it, and though I didn’t purchase it straight away, that title and Faber & Faberesque cover stuck in my mind – which just goes to show that you should never skimp on any one element to tempt a reader.

How would I describe what’s in here? Bizarre – but the good sort. A lot of the stories don’t really have plots, they don’t have characters that develop and they don’t go very far (on the Kindle some tales turn out at just half a default page), but they are charming and can make you smile. They’re well-written almost-still-lifes which as a whole work like a collection of disconnected fever dreams.

It’s obvious why publishers wouldn’t like it as flash fiction collections are not something we see on bookshelves, their thin spines won’t stand out in the high street, and you can’t justify the cost of that little paper printed if it doesn’t sell well; but it’s criminal that that’s the environment we have.

The strongest audience for this, in my view, are commuters and bog readers. These tales will pass the time between bus/train stops (making avoiding eye contact even easier), and the moment before you flush and go. Because many of the tales, for instance, on a mobile phone would fit on one or just a few screen flicks, that is probably the ideal device for it.

As I write, I only have a few more tales left to read. I could’ve zipped through it faster, but like a bar of an exquisite chocolate it’s better to have a couple of nibbles at a time. My favourite tale, which is the longest, is The Boyle Curriculum; without giving much away, you really want to know what sort of a person Boyle is, and you really wish you could be back in the authentic primary school classroom that examines him.

We probably won’t see this nominated for a Booker Prize, but certainly, it’s made me a fan, and I hope we can expect another volume in future.

Visit Nick’s site for more info and links to where you can purchase the Kindle and paperback editions.

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