Bonds That Bind by Austin L. Wiggins

Austin L Wiggins short stories

three-stars

Austin L. Wiggins’ first short story collection is a light volume, containing just six stories of less than ten pages each. He could have bulked it out, but favouring quality over quantity is probably a good idea for a new writer. Nothing kills the buzz of a great story like a weak follow-up.

These six variations on a (loose) theme of unbreakable bonds and moral dilemmas aren’t all equally impressive, but there’s no dead weight dragging it down. With recurring tropes of gang violence, bored office workers and suicide across several stories, it’s the inconsistencies that keep things interesting.

Two stories – ‘The Bird That Flew Overhead’ and ‘Of Flowers’ – feature inexplicable paranormal finales that shatter the gritty realism, but you could always put these down to hallucinations if that bothers you.

‘Radiance’ takes place in a slightly more surrealist world than the rest, as a fussy office worker comes across a series of strategically placed messages during his daily routine that spell out where the day is headed.

And after five stories dealing almost exclusively with men, a female voice in ‘What Ails Us’ is refreshing.

Most different of all is ‘The Outsider.’ This tale of an unappreciated tuba player doesn’t include any violence and is the only story with a happy ending, or as close as these get anyway. Non-coincidentally, it’s the most enjoyable of the bunch.

There’s an oft-repeated belief that short stories don’t make any money, and writers are better off jumping on the latest YA/vampire/erotica bandwagon to churn out an incomplete novel series. But as a big fan of short-form fiction, I’m happy to see the art form still going strong with talented new voices. I just hope that Wiggins’ next book’s a bit longer.

 

 

Bonds that Bind Book Cover Bonds that Bind
Austin L Wiggins
Short Stories
Pronoun
October, 2016
60

 

We all perceive ourselves as moral, and it’s easy to be so in the boredom of the day-to-day, but what about when things get ugly? Would you have the fortitude to say no if asked by a gangbanger to take part in his scheme to rob a casino? How about if someone threatened to kill your mother? Would you take them out? What would you do if your best friend slept with your wife? Would you save his life or would you let him die? Would you throw away a comfortable, if unspectacular, job as a teacher for the thrill of a big score, even if you could lose everything? Even if you could lose your life? If someone did something beyond the grounds of human decency, how much would their life be worth?

 

Dark and uncompromising, Bonds That Bind is the first collection of short fiction released by Writings by Ender and Beautiful / Losers Magazine founder Austin L. Wiggins. Equal parts Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy in tone, coupled with the easy, accessible prose of a Raymond Carver, Wiggins’ collection grabs readers’ attention from the start and doesn’t let go. Enjoy the ride.

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