I didn't know that books like Fauna by David Hartley were published any more. I mean that in a positive manner. It is a collection of dystopian/sci-fi style stories. I thought books of short stories had almost stopped being published altogether, especially of the genre in this collection. I’m so glad that I was wrong. I read each story with fervour. As well as the sci-fi leaning, all the stories have an animal or insect subject matter, hence the title.
Some have a distinct ending, others are perhaps little ambiguous, prompting further thought before turning the page to read the next. The finest compliment I can offer is that although they are set in the twenty-first century (and some, the future) they reminded me of the golden age of this genre, the 1950s and 60s, and are comparable to the short stories of Phillip K Dick and John Wyndham.
Without too many spoilers, some of the highlights for me were the ferryman of the Styx accepting an unusual passenger with an even more unusual cargo, a man hunting shadow animals - is he hunting shadow animals because all the real animals have been hunted already, or to protect the few that are living? - a fishing trawler netting a regal catch, horses in a barn as part of a time-slip, and a story about foxes that could have been written by the master of English horror, James Herbert.
For me, though, the standout story is ‘Betamorphosis.’ A young Cockroach is shunned by his family after being forced to take part in an experiment and thinks he is … now, that would be a major spoiler. Poignancy, family feuds and some laugh-out-loud moments are all crammed in to a short story about an insect.
In my opinion, this single story would be reason enough to buy the volume. I will certainly be seeking out more works by David Hartley.
Simon Elson is a Freelance Features Writer. His articles have appeared in numerous national magazines including Best of British, Derbyshire Life and Writing Magazine. He also writes for the popular cycling website Veloballs.com and has been a guest blogger on The Huffington Post.