Short stories are great; short texts to read when you only have snippets of time and don't want to get kneedeep into a novel, involving enough to stimulate the imagination, and the best short stories tend to leave you wanting more. However, if you or your publisher are brave enough to put in the back book blurb the phrase "master storyteller" then you'd better make like Dahl, Calvino, or Asimov and deliver on this.
And Mirrors in the Deluge very nearly delivers. The premise for these short, speculative fiction pieces is that they work as small mirrors; they are variations on places and things familiar and imagined - a photon explains its work and is "compelled to speak in metaphors", a beard achieves sentience. Hughes' 'mirror worlds' are surreal, daft anthropomorphisms of the everyday. There's fun to be had with the mythical, as we meet the prototype for the Trojan Horse and learn of the wooden men built by an equine community, and the fantastical, as a fairy goes to a goblin market and meets both a robot and a dinosaur in a plum. As promised by the book blurb, the book is filled with word play - the story A Dame Abroad is full of puns and reads like a psychedelic version of Airplane meets Tim Vine-esque one-liners. The story Gold, Mryhh and Frankenstein follows a trip to the theatre which disintegrates into a sinister and grotesque spectacle.
A small criticism of the book is that a few of the stories are too short, even as flash fiction pieces; they start to go somewhere then abruptly end with no room for the narrative to breathe. These work more as vignettes; they are great ideas that could be extended into longer works. A second criticism is that the title of the book is fantastic, however, there was no titular short story - this could be by choice - and the teasing preface and epilogue, Premature Afterword and Belated Foreword, do continue the mirror theme in lieu of this.
All in all, these stories are colourful romps told by a storyteller with a vivid and often witty imagination and allow Hughes's playful stories to whisk you along.
INFO: MIRRORS IN THE DELUGE / AUTHOR: RHYS HUGHES / PUBLISHER: ELSEWHEN PRESS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW