Review: Arms Against a Sea (and Other Troubles) by Rhys Hughes

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Rhys Hughes' Arms Against a Sea (and Other Troubles) was published in October 2019.

Rhys Hughes
Rhys Hughes

Rhys Henry Hughes (born 1966) is a Welsh writer and essayist.

Born in Cardiff, Hughes is a prolific short story writer with an eclectic mix of influences, which include Italo Calvino, Milorad Pavić, Jorge Luis Borges, Stanisław Lem, Flann O'Brien, Felipe Alfau, Donald Barthelme and Jack Vance. Much of his work is of a humorously eccentric bent, often parodies and pastiches with surreal and absurdist overtones, although he is by no means limited to any of these forms and has proven to be extremely versatile. He has been published in Postscripts among many other places.

Click here to visit author official website.

Arms Against a Sea (and Other Troubles) by Rhys Hughes
Arms Against a Sea (and Other Troubles)
by Rhys Hughes

A collection of twenty dreamlike fables that range the distant tropical shores of the overheated imagination. Stories about falling stars, mythological giants, reincarnated cats, lost cities, jungles, sieges, ghosts, mountains. detached faces that set off on sea voyages, cavemen that are living retail outlets, the misunderstandings and misadventures of absurdist life.


When was the last time that you were surprised by a story? How long has it been since you've read fiction that differs from the norm? It's possible that you may find it difficult to answer these questions, because finding truly original fiction that is something different is unfortunately challenging. If you are interested in original fiction and want to read something different and entertaining, you should seek out Rhys Hughes' Arms Against a Sea (and Other Troubles), because it contains twenty stories that are surprising and unique in every regard. It's one of the most compelling short story collections ever published due to its surreal and fantastical contents.

I'm aware of the fact that liking and being fascinated by this kind of literary and quirky fiction is perhaps an acquired taste, but I can guarantee that once you take a look at the stories in this collection, you'll be hooked by them and you'll find yourself wanting more (yes, these stories truly are that good and addictive). I personally find these stories satisfyingly entertaining and fresh, because they're unlike any other stories. To be honest, I'm amazed at their quality and freshness, because they're stunningly compelling, not to mention delightfully surreal.

Arms Against a Sea (and Other Troubles) demonstrates the author's impeccable ability to write short stories in a skillful way. The stories published in this collection are relatively short, but all of them are amazing and extremely well written (and feature excellent prose).

This collection contains the following stories:

- The Lynchpin
- Silky Salathiel
- Arms Against a Sea
- Weepy Boo Hoo
- Maximum Efficiency
- Disdain of the Game (published only in the paperback edition)
- The Long Ward
- Starfish Wish
- The Divided Island
- The Siege
- And Follow Me
- Her Face Was Flushed
- The Bookmark (published only in the paperback edition)
- On the Threshold
- The Shepherd's Ascent
- The World Premiere
- Moth in a Daydream (published only in the paperback edition)
- Perspectives
- All Your Belongings
- The Explorer's Porters (published only in the paperback edition)

I think it's good to mention that "Disdain of the Game", "The Bookmark", "Moth in a Daydream" and "The Explorer's Porters" can only be found in the paperback edition of Arms Against a Sea (and Other Troubles). They can't be found in the original limited edition volume.

"The Lynchpin" is an excellent opening story. It tells of Valeria who is moving to a new house across the city, because she is weary of being the lynchpin of her building. I enjoyed this story, because it's something different and has an unexpected ending. "Silky Salathiel" is a brilliant take on reincarnation and immortality. In "Arms Against a Sea", the protagonist finds a carved arm on the beach that turns out to be the lost right arm of the Venus de Milo. This story is fascinatingly absurd and it has an amazing ending that impressed me.

"Weepy Boo Hoo" tells of a person who has discovered the existence of plateaux of human shells. "Maximum Efficiency" is a story about Belperron and his logical way of thinking about efficiency. "Disdain of the Game" tells of a man who prays for patience, because he wants to tolerate his fellow human beings and feel less disdain for them. This is an amusing and delightfully weird story about prayers coming true.

"The Long Ward" is an intriguing tale about a good-natured man who, after being injured in the fight, wakes up in the hospital and hears that many centuries have passed since the fight. It was fascinating for me to read about what the protagonist thought about the hospital and his fellow patients. "Starfish Wish" is an interesting and slightly fantastical story about a couple who walk along the beach and find a starfish.

"The Divided Island" is a brilliant short story about an island that has two separate kingdoms. Both kingdoms are equal in size and distinct in character. I enjoyed reading about how the author wrote about the differences between the kingdoms and how they had evolved. "The Siege" is a splendid tale about the consequences of a long siege on people who defend their city against an army. I found this story compelling, because it's something different and amusingly macabre.

"And Follow Me" offers the reader an amusing and quirky glimpse into what happens when a man, who tries to be pious, gives his earthly possessions to a beggar. "Her Face Was Flushed" tells of a woman who loses her face, but remains connected to it in a strange way. I consider this story to be an excellent example of the author's endless imagination and writing skills, because it's a captivating and surreal account of strange happenings.

"The Bookmark" is a fascinating short story about bookmarks and how our lives are bookmarks in the story of the world. "On the Threshold" is a brilliant story about a man who's looking for a gift for his wife. The man visits the most peculiar shop in order to find something special. I find this story utterly compelling, because it's charmingly different from the other stories. "The Shepherd's Ascent" tells of Petrach who has ascended Mount Ventoux in France. This is an enjoyable piece of fiction, because it is both amusing and clever. Petrach's meeting with the mysterious shepherd at the base of the mountain is intriguing.

"The World Premiere" is a tale about a composer, Humboldt Quirk, and his final and greatest piece of music, which is an almost impossible work to perform. I enjoyed this story very much, because it's an entertaining fantastical story about music. In "Moth in a Daydream", a pilot is delivering mail by plane and is thinking about marriage. What the pilots sees and thinks about during the journey is captivating. There's something slightly nostalgic about this story that I find fascinating. "Perspectives" tells of an old white man, Felix, who decides to change his perspectives on many things. He seeks out assistance, because he is certain that he will most likely make a few mistakes without help. It was fascinating for me to read about what happened when Felix met Joy Sugar and found out what her plans were.

"All Your Belongings" is a well written story about Jasper who travelling by train and is arriving in Fusk. He finds it confusing to obey the announcer's instructions to take all his belongings with him. "The Explorer's Porters" is an excellent final tale. It tells of an explorer who wants to find the lost city of Sangapi. The explorer has difficulties calculating the expenses of the expedition and determining how many porters he needs for the journey. Just like the other stories, this story has a satisfying and intriguing ending.

One of the things that I love about these stories is that they're speckled with bits of philosophy and wisdom. Although they're entertaining, there's quite a lot of hidden depth in them. Another thing that impresses me is the author's way of turning a seemingly normal story into something special and totally unexpected. At beginning of the story, everything may seem normal, but then something weird or surreal happens and nothing is the same anymore. Because this kind of twists and turns are not common in modern speculative fiction, it's wonderful to read stories in which the author delivers many surprises and keeps the story fresh by using them in an entertaining way.

Rhys Hughes' Arms Against a Sea (and Other Troubles) is one of the best short story collections I've read to date, because it's wonderful entertainment to a reader who loves fresh and original stories. If you're in need of charming escapism, this collection is the best kind of escapism you could ever hope to find, because you'll find yourself fascinated by what happens in the stories and can't help but lose yourself into their enchanting and surreal world.

Highly recommended!