In the introduction to this book the author observes that writing short stories is no easy task. He’s a successful novelist who has for the first time, with this collection, tried his hand at another genre. In a novel the author has time to develop the story line and characters. In a short story there are several thousand words at most in which to tell the story. They are snapshots that, when told by a gifted storyteller, convey a nuanced lifetime in those few words.
Walters needn’t worry. Every one of these stories is a superbly nuanced snapshot.
They follow no theme and are bound, as he points out, only by their quirkiness.
And quirky they are! I found pleasure and poignancy in each. Being Australian I especially enjoyed the outback tales of Looking for Lionel and The kangaroo shooter because they reminded me of the times I spent as a youngster in such places.
I was sorry when I came to the end of the last little tale as they’d kept me entertained, but then there was the bonus of the essays and articles and these, let me tell you, are mostly tongue-in-the-cheek gold. I say mostly because Climate change is a serious piece and When the black dog growls has the capacity to break your heart while ultimately giving you hope.
Walters proves he is an adept raconteur on every level.
Some time ago I read Nougat’s short story compilation Death on Facebook, Short Stories for the Digital Age and was impressed with the range of stories and the skill with which they were presented. One that caught my imagination was I will not leave you behind, the futuristic story of a 122 year old woman who is part of an elite program that keeps you young until you die. In GATEWAY TO FOREVER Nougat has taken that short story and woven its premise into a four-part series of short novels I enjoyed reading very much.
The over-arching theme is the approaching doom of Earth from climate change. The story is set 200 years into the future and what becomes apparent very quickly is that humankind never learned the lessons of what it would take to save the planet. Everyone, including big business, is still only concerned with the present and what they can get out of it for themselves. People are still divided into the have’s and have not’s, only now the have’s—called the OnePercenters—can afford to have old-age and illness permanently eliminated right up until death, whereas the have not’s—the 99PerCenters—continue to struggle as we struggle in this day and age.
The story and struggle is told through three characters who all aspire to be a OnePercenter, highlighting the fact that even in Earth’s extremis we’re still only concerned with what advantages we can garner for ourselves.
You can come away from reading this series feeling a great despair for where we’re heading. The alternatives that the author presents, that of leaving Earth to inhabit a new planet and starting again, or remaining and hoping Earth regenerates itself, are stark contrasts.
A thought-provoking, confronting read.
A point worth mentioning is that the cover art is one of Nougat’s own works. If you click on the link below to my interview with the author you will see more of her paintings.