Rhys Hughes' World Muses was published in hardcover format by Mount Abraxas in September 2017 and in paperback format by Gloomy Seahorse Press in November 2017.

Information about Rhys Hughes:

Rhys Hughes was born in 1966. Tartarus Press published his first collection, Worming the Harpy, in 1995, and since that time he has published more than thirty other books. His fiction is generally fantastical and his output mainly consists of short stories, though he has published several novels. His work is frequently compared to that of Boris Vian, Flann O'Brien and R.A. Lafferty, but he cites his major influences as Italo Calvino and Donald Barthelme. His most recent books include the collections Bone Idle in the Charnel House (Hippocampus Press), Orpheus on the Underground (Tartarus Press) and Brutal Pantomimes (Egaeus Press). Fascinated by paradoxes, he incorporates them into his fiction as entertainingly as he can.

Click here to visit his official website.

Information about World Muses:

A book consisting of eighty linked stories, each concerning the magical, metaphysical, whimsical and ironic adventures of a woman from a different country and culture, and her interactions with the world, with time, space, love, logic and impulse, and with the narrator who is many men in one.

A REVIEW OF RHYS HUGHES' WORLD MUSES

Rhys Hughes' World Muses is a brilliant collection of linked short stories about various women from different countries and cultures. The stories tell of the women's adventures, lives, relationships and how they interact with various things ranging from the world and time to love and logic.

Rhys Hughes is an author whose fiction fascinates and impresses me, because I like his unconventional stories and find them enjoyable. This book is a marvellous demonstration of the author's prose and writing skills, because it showcases them in an excellent way and gives readers an opportunity to temporarily immerse themselves into the world of magical, metaphysical and whimsical adventures and happenings.

Before I write more about this book, I'll mention that this review is based on the paperback edition, which is slightly different from the hardcover edition.

It's a bit difficult to classify World Muses properly merely under one genre, because it's experimental fiction with an emphasis on whimsical, fantastical and metaphysical elements. It can perhaps best be classified as fantasy fiction, magical realism or fantastical fiction, but this doesn't entirely do justice to its diverse contents, because the stories contained within its covers are filled with beauty, strangeness and many wonders.

World Muses is a unique and original exploration of life, human condition and culture from a slightly skewed and unconventional perspective. It's a tour de force of imagination and skillful storytelling coupled with fantastical elements. It features a bit different kind of a glimpse into life, love and culture.

World Muses is a memorable reading experience. When you open its covers and begin to read it, be prepared to be amazed and mesmerised by its contents. It's not an easy book, because it's something different, but it will reward you with fantastical sights, unpredictable twists and excellent prose.

In this book, Rhys Hughes delves into exploring what kind of muses are out there in the world and how they affect the narrator. The women are - amongst other things - objects of fascination, love, desire and yearning, and they stimulate the narrator's feelings and imagination in a mesmerising and unforeseen way.

The male narrator meets different kind of women and they have an affect on him - the women awaken feelings in him and inspire him. The author writes fluently about how the narrator is willing to almost anything for some of the women and how he feels about them. The narrator is many men in one man and his thoughts echo what many men may think or feel. He experiences various sensations, feelings and emotions in the stories.

Because this is a book by Rhys Hughes, it features charming absurdism and surreal elements that spice up the stories. There's also underlying sharpness and quite a lot of subtext to be found in the stories. One of the best things about this book is that it's possible analyse and examine the stories in several ways, because readers think differently about many things and have their own ways of making sense of strange happenings.

It's genuinely surprising how much depth this book has, because each of the linked stories adds its own unique flavour to the whole and reveals things about people, their emotions and how love works. Although the stories are short, they offer insightful, clever and amusing glimpses into life, love and relationships. They also occasionally ascend into metaphysical heights of strangeness and gently force readers to think about what's going on and what's happening to the narrator and the women.

Because I was deeply mesmerised by all of the stories, I probably shouldn't single out any stories, but I want to mention a few things about some of them so that readers will see what's in store for them when they begin to read this book:

"Silvia" is a fascinating story about how the narrator and the woman go climbing at every available opportunity and experience something strange. In "Marie", a religion comes into being on a train station platform in an intriguing way. In "Zsuzsanna", the narrator becomes depressed over a woman. "Eleftheria" is an excellent story with a bit of Greek mythology. "Princessa" has an interesting connection to a well-known fairy-tale, "The Princess and the Pea" by Hans Christian Andersen, because the narrator treats the woman like a princess and puts peas under her mattress.

I'll also mention that readers have an opportunity to read about what happens when the narrator is taught deep learning by Mengjie and experiences something surreal when he selects a book and climbs onto it. Readers will also get to marvel at how baldness is a result of civilization and what happens at night in the garden.

One of the reasons why I love the stories in this book is that the author's way of transforming some of the stories from seemingly normal premises into surreal and metaphysical reading experiences works well. I find this kind of fiction fascinating, because I enjoy stories that defy easy classification and push the boundaries of speculative fiction and literary fiction into new directions.

A couple of the stories can be classified as OuLiPo writing (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle), because in these stories the author follows precise rules concerning structure, layout and output. These stories are intricate and carefully constructed and represent the author's writing skills. I was surprised to find this kind of stories here, because OuLiPo writing is rare.

One of these OuLiPo stories features the shape of an hourglass and the story fills the shape perfectly. The "Alice" story is intriguingly experimental, because when you follow the lines and read what is written in the boxes, you'll get to read a wonderfully surprising story. The same applies to the story "Söökhlö", because by randomly following the boxes horizontally and vertically, you'll get to read quite a stunning story.

I sincerely hope that readers will boldly venture outside their comfort zones and read this unusual book, because it's imaginative, original and refreshingly different. This is not your normal kind of speculative fiction, but something wonderfully experimental and intriguing that will induce a desire to read the whole book in one sitting.

Rhys Hughes' World Muses is a compelling and rewarding reading experience that will appeal to readers who love fresh and original fiction. If you enjoy reading well written stories and love fantastical happenings, you should read this book, because it will captivate you.

Highly recommended!

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