Contemporary Fiction, 2008
Footsteps in the Darkness is Matthew Kerry’s debut effort and it’s a collection of seven short stories.
Unfortunately, I begin having problems right away from the first page of the first short story, The Bigger Picture, when I come across this sentence.
Eyes peered up fearfully from shimmering computer screens and watched him stride past the desks from which loose papers fluttered and whispered to the ground in his wake.
Oh, I know what Mr Kerry means – folks who are working away at their computers look up as this fellow walks past them. But the sentence also makes it seem as if those “shimmering computer screens” have eyes that can “peer up fearfully”. And, seriously now, a functional computer screen shouldn’t be “shimmering” at a rate that can be detected by the eye. I know I will be most annoyed if this computer screen of mine begins “shimmering” while I’m typing out this sentence. And let’s not even start with papers that whisper to the ground.
And that’s just one of the many sentences in this collection that are unnecessarily padded with descriptive words or phrases that end up obfuscating the message that the sentence in question is trying to convey. There is literary writing and there is trying too hard to sound literary, and I’m afraid Mr Kerry falls into the latter camp here. Sometimes a clear, crisp, and concise sentence is much more useful than a sentence crammed with pretty-sounding words that actually don’t fit well within the context.
You’re probably wondering why I am not giving a synopsis of each story. Well, it’s because the stories here are so short that even a single-sentence description of each of them will be tantamount to me describing the entire story, heh. You will have to read them yourself, I’m afraid. I will say this, though – each story has a “moral” that is delivered rather heavy-handedly by the author. Therefore, Footsteps in the Darkness comes off like an awkward mess of pretentiously grandiose verbiage and preachy anvils. If I didn’t know better, I’d feel that I am being condescended upon by the author.
I’ll leave this as the closing of the review. You’ll have to decide for yourself. If you find the following too hard to swallow, then this collection isn’t for you. If you find the below, which is typical of the prose in this collection, a beautiful work of poetry, then you may like this one.
Every day the metropolis seemed to skulk steadily closer, crawling over the fresh virgin grass and rugged rocks, ripping up and chewing the earth, before spewing out tonnes of damp concrete, sharp shining glass and snaking cables in the form of new buildings and roads whilst at the same time belching out filthy fumes. As the city crunched and grinded its way up the slopes it seemed to claw the peaks down due to the builders who were hacking steadily away at the very roots and foundations of the mountains.