Devised and Edited by Dion Winton-Polak
Createspace, 424 pages
Review by Paul Fenton
Imagine Brexit was more than an economic and political separation. Imagine Britain was physically torn from its place alongside the continent, and dropped into an empty gap in the middle of the Amazon. In the Mesolithic period. Also, add monsters. Think of the horrors which could be unleashed, and not just on prominent UKIP members. Mouth-watering, isn’t it?
“This Twisted Earth” is an eclectic collection of stories all anchored by one central premise: that the world as we know it has experienced a kind of cosmic calamity, creating a temporal and geographic Eton mess, blending past, present, future, and parallel dimensions, and dropping them all together in the same physical plane. Prehistoric vs post-historic. Mundane vs fantastic. Dogs vs cats. In short, anything goes, and as the contributors to this volume have fired up their imaginations – fueled, I imagine, by whisky and Hunter S. Thompson’s first aid kit – anything usually does. The stories move between familiar yet warped geographies and periods – was-Africa, was-Japan, was-Britain, was-Wild West – and in each of them there is a defining weirdness, some weirdnesses weirder than others.
Each story could warrant a review in its own right, but here is a grab-bag of examples:
In “Fatal Planet”, a twisted Aztec encounters a Star Trek-esque spaceship which has been dragged into this dimensional mashup, and the reader is given a drone’s-eye view of the landscape to come. In “The Ghost in Michelle”, a fiery Welsh girl is dropped into a medieval fantasy-scape, surviving the relocation only to be promptly decapitated by a deranged knight-of-sorts. “Little Boy” follows a mother’s journey to find her lost son, across a violent and deadly was-Japan. “Stagecoach Mary and the Ride over the Mountains” is the retelling of a legendary tale of Mary Fields, a no-nonsense skull-cracker from the Wild West, who makes a perilous journey by wagon to trade meat for artillery with a Boston from the year 2133, encountering beasties from some other time and place on her way. Then we have “The Man who would be King of the Monsters” by Booksquawk’s own Hereward Proops, an awesome account of a battle in a kind of twisted British Raj, where gargantuan mammoth-like monsters called balaa battle one another to the death, ridden by teams of warriors from rival villages.
Some authors directly reference the twisting event, setting it as a post around which they pivot their stories, while others consider its implications and cut loose with the monsters and weirdness. Some stories are fantastically pulpy, while others take on a darker edge – but they are all conceived and executed with a sharp eye and ear, resulting in an oddly harmonic whole. The collection’s curator and editor, Dion Winton-Polack, ties the stories together with invented articles, poems, essays and other fictions. The end result is a glorious tapestry of weird and wondrous, where the map of the world and its history is reimagined piece by piece, then torn apart and stuck back together again with the aid of a blindfold and a hefty whiff of ether. It’s a clever stage on which to host such an anthology, and it really works. I genuinely hope there will be more pieces added to the twisted map in the future.