A review of Nina Allan's A Thread of Truth

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Nina Allan's A Thread of Truth was published by Eibonvale Press in 2007.

Information about Nina Allan:

Nina Allan is a British author. She is the author of A Thread of Truth, Microcosmos, The Silver Wind, Spin, Stardust and The Race. Her stories have appeared in British speculative fiction magazines Interzone, Black Static and Crimewave, and have featured in the anthologies Best Horror of the Year #2, The Year's Best SF #28 and The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2012 and 2013.  Her story 'Angelus' won the Aeon Award in 2007, and her short fiction has shown up on BFS and BSFA shortlists on several occasions.

Click here to visit Nina Allan's official website.

Information about A Thread of Truth:

A young man determined to cure his fear of spiders, discovers both the magic of nature and something much stranger in the Suffolk countryside.

A forgotten suitcase containing a macabre secret.

A touch of the strange on the Moscow Metro.

A mystery living behind the crumbling façade of a derelict hotel.

A crack appears in concrete...

In this book, the first collection from London writer Nina Allan, the full range of her styles is evident. Often using only the tiniest hints of the unusual or otherworldly to colour her narratives, these stories are rooted squarely in both the meticulously observed modern world and the traditions of British Macabre and Slipstream writing. They are subtle and elegantly crafted, leading us to question our own identities and take a second look at places we thought we knew.

From the quiet and melancholy mystery of Terminus to the fractured modern reality of The Vicar with Seven Rigs to the fragile and almost classical beauty and eeriness of the title novella, A Thread of Truth – many of these stories have never been seen in print before and I am delighted to present them to you here.

– David Rix

A REVIEW OF NINA ALLAN'S A THREAD OF TRUTH

Nina Allan's A Thread of Truth is an excellent debut short story collection (it was published by Eibonvale Press in 2007). This short story serves as a perfect indicator of Nina Allan's writing talents, because it reveals how good and talented an author she is and how well she writes about characters and happenings.

A Thread of Truth beautifully showcases all the different nuances and flavours of Nina Allan's literary writing style. She writes fascinatingly dark and emotional fiction that is speckled with brutality and honesty that is seldom found in modern speculative fiction. Her writing can be described as a harmonious blend of fantasy, realism and truth.

Nina Allan excels at writing about the lives of the protagonists and their feelings and problems. She understands that well-created characters are an important part of the stories and their depth. She easily delves into the lives and pasts of the characters and examines their feelings, hopes and fears.

There's quiet power and subtle horror in these stories that will intrigue readers. One of the best things about this collection is that the stories have tiny elements and clues that hint at something peculiar, unsettling or supernatural. Small details and little things mean a lot in these stories, because just a few words or a couple of sentences may reveal that all may not be what it seems to be.

I'm sure that everyone who has ever read classic horror and weird fiction stories by Arthur Machen and other similar authors will find something in this collection that will allure them. Although the contents of the stories vary a lot, some of the stories have a touch of good old-fashioned eeriness them that will fascinate many readers. (I think it's good to mention that the horror elements found in these stories differ quite a lot from what many readers may consider to be horror, because Nina Allan approaches horror in a subtle way.)

This collection contains the following stories:

- Amethyst
- Ryman's Suitcase
- Bird Songs at Eventide
- Queen South
- The Vicar with Seven Rigs
- Heroes
- Terminus
- A Thread of Truth

It's slightly difficult to categorise these stories under one category, but they can be categorised as horror, science fiction and slipstream fiction. They're beautifully crafted and fluently written stories that feature enchantingly realistic, macabre and unsettling elements.

Here's more information about the stories and my thoughts about them:

Amethyst:

- An excellent story about Jane who has a friend called Angela who together explore places. Angela is fascinated by aliens and different kind of objects. A folk group called Amethyst has made a song about the town in whic the girls live and made the town famous.
- The author writes beautifully about the town and the happenings. There's a wonderfully melancholy atmosphere in this story.

Ryman's Suitcase:

- In this story a doctor moves to a small village and takes up a locum position. He finds a suitcase that belonged to the previous holder of the position.
- I think that this story will be of special interest to those readers who are familiar with the works of Arthur Machen, because it was originally written for a competition arranged by the Friends of Arthur Machen.

Bird Songs at Eventide:

- An intersting science fiction story about dragons, an alien planet and a research colony.
- This is one of the most compelling science fiction stories I've read this year.
- This story has been inspired by music ("Bird Songs at Eventide" by Eric Coates).

Queen South:

- An interesting story about a young man who becomes fascinated by a blonde girl who's different from his fiancée.
- In my opinion this story has a wonderful atmosphere.
- This story has also been inspired by music ("Queen South" by The Ashtray Hearts).

The Vicar with Seven Rigs:

- A well written coming of age story about teenagers who break into a hotel called "The Vicar with Seven Rigs".
- This story features perfect characterisation.

Heroes:

- This is one of the most compelling stories I've read in a while, because the author has combined several different elements in a successful way.
- It was intriguing for me to read about pigeon racing, because it is something that is seldom found in speculative fiction stories.
- Because this story is something different, it requires a bit of attention from the reader.

Terminus:

- An excellent story that takes place in a Moscow Metro.
- This beautifully written and atmospheric horror story will fascinate many readers.

A Thread of Truth:

- An amazing and unforgettable story about arachnophobia.
- The author has an excellent way of writing about phobia, because the protagonist tries to cure his arachnophobia in a slightly different way.
- Nina Allan writes well about spiders. (If you enjoy reading this story, I can recommend the author's novella "Spin", because it's a fascinating story about Arachne myth.)

These stories feature beautiful prose, excellent characterisation and stylistic storytelling.

It's amazing how fluently Nina Allan explores what happens to the protagonists and how they feel about the happenings when something unexpected or strange happens to them that changes their perception of life and circumstances. All the protagonist has their own stories that unfold as the stories progress, and their lives, feelings and experiences are explored with interesting details.

Nina Allan explores relationships and friendships between people in an excellent way. In my opinion she's one of the best modern authors when it comes to writing about relationships and friendships, because it comes naturally to her. There's nothing forced about her writing - the joys and pains of the characters feel realistic.

The author evokes beautiful and vivid images of different places in her stories. She writes evocatively about the surroundings in which the protagonist experience different things and emotions. For example, in "Amethyst" and "Ryman's Suitcase" the author writes perfectly about different places.

"Ryman's Suitcase" is one of the best stories in this collection. I consider it to be an excellent horror flavoured story. Because I've always enjoyed reading stories in which the protagonists move to new places and come face to face with mysteries, I loved this story. The author wrote intriguingly about the doctor and how he became fascinated by his predecessor's wife. She also wrote well about trepanning.

"Terminus" is one of the most memorable stories about metro systems I've ever read. Until now I've considered Clive Barker's "Midnight Meat Train" to be the ultimate horror story about metro systems, but "Terminus" became a new favourite of mine. I'll also mention that this story reminded me a bit of some of the stories found in the anthology Rustblind and Silverbright (Eibonvale Press, 2013).

"Terminus" is almost like the total opposite of "Midnight Meat Train", because it contains old-fashioned feelings of terror and the author pays a lot of attention to the atmosphere. The author easily hooks her readers with this story, because she writes well about how the characters (a man and a woman) become trapped at a station that should not exist and subtly hints at something terrifying.

The strongest story in this collection is "A Thread of Truth". It's a beautifully written story about a man, arachnophobia and spiders (it develops into a fascinating story with dark undertones). I enjoyed reading about the protagonist's life, his feelings and his fear of spiders (what happens between the protagonist and Jennie is handled well), because the author wrote well about him and his life.

Nina Allan is one of the best and most talented authors ever to grace the field of speculative fiction. She writes beautiful and excellent literary prose and easily captures the hearts and minds of the readers with her descriptions about the places and the characters. She has plenty of imagination and she easily combines literary fiction and speculative fiction.

A Thread of Truth is an impressive and beautifully written short story collection. Because I've previously read a few books by Nina Allan, I can mention that this collection will impress readers who have read Nina Allan's stories. It will also please newcomers who are yet to experience what kind of an author she is and what kind of literary wonders she has in store for her readers.

Are you ready to be seduced by beautiful prose, excellent characterisation and mesmerising stories? If you are, please read A Thread of Truth as soon as possible, because you'll enjoy reading it. It's an impressive debut short story collection featuring beautifully written stories.

Highly recommended!