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Nickle's collection dark, complex

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/12/2014 (1488 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Prolific genre-bending author David Nickle's second story collection, Knife Fight and Other Struggles, is horrifying, funny, weird and wonderfully written, all at once.

Knife Fight is Nickle's fifth book since 2009. The Toronto-based author also works as a journalist and was one of many reporters covering municipal politics at the very height of the Rob Ford chaos -- likely inspiration for the collection's title story.

In Knife Fight, a big-city mayor settles policy disputes every Thursday night in the city hall underground parkade in a one-on-one knife fight. His weapon of choice is a bowie knife he pulled from a tree in his family's yard, King Arthur-style. The story is satirical enough to warrant some chuckles, but it's also fierce and sobering.

Other highlights include Looker, whose basic idea is similar to the Stephen King story I Am the Doorway, but is taken in a new and interesting direction by Nickle.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/12/2014 (1488 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Prolific genre-bending author David Nickle's second story collection, Knife Fight and Other Struggles, is horrifying, funny, weird and wonderfully written, all at once.

Knife Fight is Nickle's fifth book since 2009. The Toronto-based author also works as a journalist and was one of many reporters covering municipal politics at the very height of the Rob Ford chaos — likely inspiration for the collection's title story.

In Knife Fight, a big-city mayor settles policy disputes every Thursday night in the city hall underground parkade in a one-on-one knife fight. His weapon of choice is a bowie knife he pulled from a tree in his family's yard, King Arthur-style. The story is satirical enough to warrant some chuckles, but it's also fierce and sobering.

Other highlights include Looker, whose basic idea is similar to the Stephen King story I Am the Doorway, but is taken in a new and interesting direction by Nickle.

The Exorcist: A Love Story seems like a straight-up exorcism story, but it's told from the perspective of the demon who has possessed an infant.

The Nothing Book of the Dead, meanwhile, is told through the contents of a teen's journal forced upon him by his grandmother. As encouragement, she provides some notes and suggestions on everything he writes, and these tidbits continue to appear in the journal after she dies.

Nickle is often labelled a horror writer, but his books are difficult to categorize, as is the case with each of these stories. Though one or two might be classified as out-and-out horror, and one for sure is sci-fi, the rest do not easily fall within clearly defined genre categories, a testament to just how complex and nuanced the stories are.

It is often the strength of Nickle's characterization which breaks through the barriers of easy genre categorization. Though The Exorcist: A Love Story has a demon in it, there's a very thoughtful and tragic examination of the kind of life one must lead in order to confront such an evil presence. Love Means Forever takes place on a spaceship, but is a tender story of optimism and eventual disappointment.

For all their dips into the fantastic, these stories are just as sophisticated as anything being published as "literary" fiction.

Though not conforming to one specific genre, the majority of the stories here are definitely dark in tone, dabbling into the kind of subject matter normally seen in horror, weird fiction, thriller, and the post-apocalyptic. Love Means Forever is the only story that seems a touch out of place. It's as good as the other stories, but is the only hard sci-fi entry and is decidedly less dark than the others. It sticks out when compared to the others.

There's also a teaser for Nickle's next book, Volk, which is a sequel to his novel Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism. While also well-written, it's noticeably incomplete when compared to the other stories collected here, though established fans of Nickle will surely be glad for this sneak peek, which is very promising indeed.

Anyone even vaguely interested in horror or weird fiction owes it to themselves to give David Nickle a look, and Knife Fight and Other Struggles is a great place to start. Those already familiar won't be disappointed.

 

Keith Cadieux is a Winnipeg writer.

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History

Updated on Saturday, December 27, 2014 at 9:09 AM CST: Formatting.

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