Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Review: The Sovereignties of Invention
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to readers who dig the odd and uncanny
Pgs: 109 (pdf)
Publisher: Red Lemonade (Releases May 2012)
Matthew Battles may be a new author to me, but he is not new to authordom. Back in 2003 he channeled his love of rare books and libraries and published Library: an Unquiet History (which has seen mixed reviews on Goodreads), a book that tours libraries from all over the world throughout all of time.
His latest, The Sovereignties of Invention, is a collection of short stories that seem to be suspended just beyond the reach of time and place. Steeped in the uncanny and impossible, Battles stretches our imagination with stories like Time Capsule in which two men attempt to best each other in a never ending game of chess aided by pills that, when swallowed, move you back through time in one minute increments. Or the title story, The Sovereignties of Invention, which tells the tale of the man who purchased a machine that, once inserted into your auditory canals, can record your every subconscious thought.
It's like Battles is stirring up a war between man, animal, and machine...gathering all of the elements, giving them a good wind-up, and releasing them into the arena to duke it out. Who will come out on top? How will it all end? Does man overcome the machine? Does animal outlast man? Does it even matter..?
Within this collection of eleven stories, The Dogs in the Trees, Camera Lucida, and The Unicorn were particular favorites of mine, evoking much stronger emotional connections than any of the others. For reasons unknown to the townspeople, dogs take to the trees until their eventual deaths. A family vacationing in a hand-me-down summer home discover an old Polaroid camera that shoots photos of people they've never met and places they've never been. A man stumbles across an ugly, deformed, and incredibly sad unicorn in his local cemetery and the two quickly become inseparable. These are the sort of stories that I wish I could experience from the inside... by burrowing within their pages.
Other stories, like The Gnomon and The World and the Tree, contain incredibly strong, dreamlike qualities. Sometimes so strong that you want to shake its characters awake, certain that the things they are describing cannot possibly be happening.
If you're looking for a collection of stories that will challenge your mind while changing the way you view the world, I'm pretty sure you've just found it!
And you'd be in luck, too, because TNBBC is proud to host Matthew Battles in a discussion of this very collection towards the end of next month. Why not grab a copy (or read it here) and prepare to join us?! The discussion will go live on May 15th here.