Go When The Light Turns Red
Sometimes you just have to take a chance with a title you come across, particularly in crowded genres like Fantasy and Science-Fiction; after all, if you don’t take that chance, you’ll never find new authors. That’s why I decided to take a look at author Kevin Elliott’s first collection of short stories, Go When The Light Turns Red, when I was offered a copy to review. The cover art was quite engaging, an excellent example of how to create an eye-catching book cover with stock images and a carefully-chosen font selection, and the low price of 99p means it’s a cheap investment for readers scrolling through the endless Kindle genre listings. Plus there are only four short stories in the collection, meaning it would be a short read that would act as an refreshing break between horror titles.
As it’s a short collection of short stories, and I don’t want to spoil the content of each story and ruin it for reader and author alike, I’ll just give some brief impressions and thoughts on each tale in turn. We open with the title story, Go When The Light Turns Red, an imaginative tale set in the near-future and focusing on some new cutting-edge medical technology that’s recently been developed. It’s a holographic system that can display the pain in a patient’s body, colour-coded to different parts of the body – muscular, skeletal and so forth; physical pain turned into raw data to be processed and displayed by a computer. Revolutionary – but incredibly expensive to operate and expand upon, even on a lunar colony. If only a creative solution could be found with a sideways look at its uses – perhaps one playing to humanity’s more base impulses? An excellent start to the collection – while the characters are a little unfocused, the core concept is well executed, the tech is genuinely interesting, and there’s a great hook for future stories in the setting.
Trevor of Nazareth, as the title suggests, moves into religious territory, with Elliott writing a deeply compelling and darkly humorous story. Trevor is one of God’s sons, but is more of a questioning, thoughtful soul than his half-brother Jesus, who unthinkingly follows God’s every command no matter how contradictory they are. Trevor questions the nature of God’s creation (the universe and humanity) and His reasons for making it all. What, queries Trevor, is the point of Free Will if it isn’t actually allowed to develop apart from pre-chosen paths? It’s an old argument, but one that Elliott puts a new and engaging spin on, as well as delivering a rather surprising and thought-provoking ending to the tale that left me musing for some time afterwards.
Magic in the Weave is yet another unusual story that takes up a sci-fi concept I haven’t seen executed before: the nature of fabric and its design. Set once again in the near-future, with 3D printers and a very cool set of haptic-style grooves that can extrude material-forming gel, a fabrics researcher at Oxford University explores the connections between technology, engineering and fashion design. Would it be possible for engineers to overcome the negative body imagery associated with, and perpetuated by, the fashion industry? Elliott delivers a surprisingly up-beat and positive answer.
The collection closes with The Opposite of Blood, which opens with a police officer investigating the theft of a quarter ton of garlic from a local supermarket, a crime that’s as perplexing as it is random. It’s joined by another robbery, this time of spare Crucifixes from a local church. It isn’t the local werewolves, but it might be some of the Vampires in the area, despite previous attempts to get them to behave. Or, as further cases appear, another possibility reveals itself,: the fabled anti-vampires. It’s another darkly humorous tale from Elliott, with an engaging fantasy setting that’s played subtly and pays off nicely with an unexpected and explosive ending.
Go When The Light Turns Red is an enjoyable and deeply entertaining debut from author Kevin Elliott. The four stories in the collection demonstrate a consistently high quality of writing, blended together with a real flair for imaginative science-fiction and fantasy story-telling. This is a strong and incredibly promising start for an author competing in such a crowded genre, and I look forward with great interest to seeing what Elliott comes up with next in his writing career.