Friday, June 25, 2010

Book review - Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, by Wells Tower

There has got to be some level of self-fulfilling prophecy at work when you give a kid a name that simply sounds like they should be a notable person. Case in point is the author Wells Tower. You may or may not have heard of him, but the name instantly intrigued me when I first heard it. It sounds equally like it could be the name of a Louis L'Amour book or of a downtown skyscraper. I have seen Tower's name around here and there for years, but never really thought too much of it. I first read his work in Outside Magazine, where he is a contributor of various non-fiction pieces. I've been impressed with that work, but had not previously read any of his fiction, although it has appeared in well-respected publications such as Harper's and McSweeney's.

Over the last month or so, I've been making my way through his first book, a collection of short stories titled Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. I don't often seek out short story collections, but having liked his previous magazine work, it seemed reasonable to give this one a try.

What I found was an extremely engaging set of short stories that take a wide range of perspectives and engage a number of topics. It's hard to summarize such a collection in any cohesive way, but the book literally ranges from teenage angst to Viking pillaging. Yes, you read that correctly. For what it's worth though, I found myself instantly drawn in to each story, no matter how different each is from the last.

Sometimes short stories have the tendency of not establishing any characters or theme early enough in the work and when you finish you don't know what you've got. With Tower's work, I often found myself wishing that each story were a full book. For that reason, I hope to see a full-length book from him in the near future, and I expect with his talent that it can't be too far away. Also, did I mention how cool I think his name is?

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