STARDUST: The Ruby Castle Stories
by Nina Allan
Cover Artist: Ben Baldwin
Review by Mario Guslandi
PS Publishing Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781848636149
Date: 01 April 2013 List Price £11.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
It's no secret that British author Nina Allan is rapidly becoming a rising star in the world of dark fiction so it's no wonder why I suggest you try her latest book, the collection Stardust.
The volume collects six stand alone novellas (plus a little poem). These stories are loosely interconnected by the appearance or the mention of an allegedly famous movie actress, Ruby Castle (who actually is totally absent in the last and longest of the stories).
"B-Side" is a suspenseful piece featuring a teen chess player whose master is dying. The teen is torn between the hard facts of life and the fantastic world of horror movies.
The outstanding, extremely captivating "The Lammas Worm" revolves around unwholesome old myths. In the story, a weird girl joins a circus company bringing about trouble and tragedy.
The ambitious "The Gateway" endeavours to blend private events and public tragedies at the time of WW2. Although the mix doesn't always work quite effectively, the novelette is a powerful tableau thanks to terrific storytelling.
Storytelling is actually Allan's most extraordinary talent -- even when her plots become a bit shaky -- her narrative strength is so potent that the reader can't literally put the book down, despite the difficulty in maintaining suspension of disbelief. Fine examples are the two stories mentioned below.
"Stardust" is a complex, intriguing novella where the tragedy of a failed star rocket launch provides the background for a passional murder and various family events taking place in the life of a young girl bound to become a writer.
The excellent "Wreck of the Julia" is at the same time a psychological mystery, a love story and an exotic horror tale. All in all a riveting work of fiction imbued with happiness and melancholy, told in Allan's usual gripping narrative style.
I cannot recommend this book enough: this is great fiction at its best by an extremely talented author who, I suspect, is going to get even better in the future.