The Resurrection Tree And Other Stories by Tony Cooper (book review).

Traditionally, in any collection or anthology, the strongest story is put first. The rationale is that whenever a potential reader/buyer picks up the book and turns to the first page, they will be grabbed by what is on offer and continue with it. For a similar reason, traditionally, the second best story is put last so the reader can put down the book with satisfaction. Sometimes, the weakest story is put second, after all, the buyer already has the book and would read on to get their money’s worth.

In this collection from Tony Cooper, the strongest and title story is first. The Resurrection Tree is an ancient oak in Katy’s garden. She called it that because at five years old, it seemed to die in the winter, then come back to life in the spring. Then she laid a dead bird under the tree and it came back to life. Three years later, her brother, Phillip, was accidentally killed while they were playing. Scared she would be blamed, she dragged him under the tree for resurrection. A year later, it was the family dog. The rest of the story encapsulates Katy’s life with the boy, bird and dog that never change. It is a beautiful story about the faith of children and their belief in the impossible. Of the other eight stories, none has quite the power of this one.

The last story in this volume, ‘The Colours Of Jupiter’, has a surreal element to it. Out near Jupiter, a group of scientists are trying to prove that time is not linear. Whether or not the story works, it does raise questions and not just about their hypothesis. This story is Science Fiction, as is ‘The Chaos Police’. It also raises insoluble questions though this also has an ethical element. The role of the chaos police is to find those people who through thoughtless action or inaction set off a chain of events that has larger consequence. It’s like stopping the butterfly flapping its wings and causing the hurricane the other side of the world. The weakest story is perhaps ‘Jazz On The Radio’. It’s not a bad story just one of those that feels it needs a bit more flesh on the bones as a lecturer is distracted by memories.

Some of the stories are well and subtly told, such as ‘Seaview Hotel’, as it is only at the very end that it is revealed why a disparate group of people meet at a coastal hotel and go for a walk on the beach just before dawn. ‘Fake Mary’ is another where only at the end does all become clear. Less subtle in ‘The Last Villain’. The narrator, fed up with the scientific establishment laughing at his ideas, decides to prove them wrong. In some ways this is a throwback story of the mad scientist producing wonders in his garden shed, in another, it is a chilling end of the world story. ‘Making Gods’ is another search for knowledge that is perhaps too dangerous to be let out. Like ‘The Last Villain’, it indicates that the sole pursuit of knowledge without the checks and balances of humanity can be disastrous.

‘Lord Of Shadow’ is another story about the belief of children and their power to make the impossible happen. Simon is a first born and as a consequence has issues about his younger brother, George, and the way he believes that George is taking all their attention. He wants the baby to disappear so he turns to his only friends, the shadows.

The stories in this volume are a mixture of SF and horror. This is an author whose work should have greater exposure as he does know how to write. If these stories have appeared elsewhere in magazines or anthologies, this volume doesn’t acknowledge it.

Pauline Morgan

January 2018

(pub: CreateSpace, 2015. 146 page paperback. Price: £ 6.99 (UK). Ebook/Kindle: £ 1.49 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-50892-048-9)

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