Review By Peter Randall
Kherson Regional Cardiological Centre after Russian shelling in the night on 23 March 2023. According to the director, this is the fourth shelling of the centre (the first one was on 30 December). In total, 26 hospitals have been destroyed and 93 damaged in Kherson region, according to local officials.
Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
In advance of the Ukraine Write-a-thon (LINK) on 25th June, Peter Randall has reviewed the anthology Ten Years Later. Buy, Read, Enjoy, and Help Reconstruction of Ukraine. Over to the review.
Following the publication of Building a Better Future by Sergeant Frosty Publications, one year on with the war in Ukraine still raging and the murderous excesses of the Russian invaders having been brought to light, David Flin has again brought together authors for a further collection, Ten Years Later.
With the latitude provided by the theme of 'ten years later' the stories are either alternate history or imaginings of the future, largely that of Ukraine. Understandably hope looms large, but so does sadness.
The opening story, The Hero by Binod Dawadi, is one such imagining of Ukraine's future. In the story Ukraine changes from a warzone to a country needing rebuilding, and as the circumstances in Ukraine change so too does what is required to be a hero, as a line of heroes is charted from one man to his granddaughter.
Harold Macmillan, perhaps apocryphally, talked of being sent down by the Kaiser when he left Oxford before completing his degree to serve in the First World War. In Be He the Worst of Sinners by Jonathan Edelstein, the main character has been sent down by Putin, his formal education having been interrupted by the Russian invasion. This story is a fascinating exploration of Judaism through mathematics, two fields that are both familiar yet also relatively alien to me, in the sense that I know enough about both to realise there is far more I am ignorant of.
Provisions of War by Robert New is a gripping story, all played out in a bottle as a woman has a conversation over tea with her grandfather. It just happens that her grandfather is credited with having ended the war in Ukraine, following a secret conversation he had with Vladimir Putin ten years ago. I found myself hanging on as the story played with my expectations about what the reveal would be: what did Fedir say to Putin to end the invasion?
We Don't Talk About That by David Love is the first work of alternate history in the book, a snapshot of a timeline in which the struggle against apartheid in South Africa had been conducted differently. Alternate history can have a problem where authors show their working too thoroughly. This is an excellent example of how to develop a compelling alternate history by showing, not telling. I was struck by how the central act is remembered within the timeline, when we know how history played out without that act.
Unsurprisingly, hope features prominently in Hope by Charles Cartwright, in the names of a girl, a rose and a bridge. The inhabitants of a town are given a memorial that gets destroyed shortly before it's due to be unveiled, and come together to build one of their own. The memorial that the townspeople build in this put me in mind of Max Lachnit's Trümmerfrau statue, made of the rubble the Trümmerfrauen repurposed to rebuild Germany from the ruins of the Second World War
The theme of hope continues in Something Greater Forged in Peace by Alex Wallace. Ten years on, the story sees Ukraine returned to the status quo ante of 2014-22. The Donetsk People's Republic is almost a dystopia, especially for its discontents, while life to the west in Ukraine still sees some yearn for something better. It took over 40 years of division before Germany was reunited following the Second World War - I was left hoping that the division of Ukraine would not last so long.
The Mural by Andy Cooke is about the painting of a mural, as the title might suggest. The task of painting the mural is taken up by different characters, each adding their own perspectives and experiences throughout, while also interpreting what came in different ways, shaped by the experiences. It's incredibly effective storytelling as the mural is added to along with the story.
Shubin by Brent A. Harris was a story that sent me down a rabbit hole of further reading, as I read deeper into the folklore about Shubin. I don't normally like ambiguity in fiction, but here it worked, and I thought this was an interesting direction to take with the prompt of 'ten years later'.
There's something horror-like about the title of SWARM by Sean Patrick Hazlett, and I think the story definitely has horror-like elements to it. This is not surprising given the author's credentials! SWARM is set in Ukraine with the conflict still going ten years later. The story is tense to start, and this tension only increases as it continues, becoming almost unbearable.
Context is For Kings by Matthew Kresal reminded me of SEAL Team Six in Operation Neptune Spear, as featured in the film Zero Dark Thirty, but this is a work of alternate history, ten years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. I tend to glaze over action scenes in novels, so I was surprised with how engaging I found this story.
In Every Waking Moment and In Every Nightmare by Jason Sharp starts with the simple question, 'What if Canada had joined the invasion of Iraq?' and comes up with the sad answer, 'There would be more Canadians with PTSD'. What really stands out in this story is the way the past cuts into the present.
After that I was glad to have something incredibly heartwarming to read - The Happy Wall by David Flin. Watching Jani and Ekatya's relationship develop was very enjoyable, and I liked the payoff at the end.
The Hardest Reconstruction of Them All is incredibly appropriately titled. The thought that 'ten years later' also means ten years in which Ukraine will move toward normalising relationships with Russia is a future I struggle to see, from my perspective here in 2023 - in that I am too flawed to see beyond my own anger. But ten years after the Second World War, Germany (or half if it) was a fully functioning part of the international community, despite the terrors it had inflicted on the world. So there is an important lesson for me to take to heart in this.
Proceeds from sales of Ten Years Later are being donated to the DEC Ukraine Appeal, a fantastic cause that has raised over £400 million to support people affected by the war.
Cover by Jack Tindale. Thank you, Jack.
But I hope this run through of Ten Years Later will inspire you to purchase this collection on its own merits, not just because it is for a worthwhile cause. I found something of value in each story, and I have returned to stories for rereading already as I have mulled them over in my mind ever since I first read them.
Comment on this story Here.