Review: The Red Gloves and Other Stories is a daring tip-toe through unfolding layers of mystery
As it smashed, light exploded: a scatter of glass… blinding dazzle of colour… festooned with glorious scarlet cloth, full of echoes of some great cry, ringing from roof to floor.”
The horror genre is one which a lot of readers approach with measured trepidation. But, when a writer presents horror in a pleasurable and benevolent manner, we must applaud such mastery. Each page of The Red Gloves and Other Stories is a daring tip-toe through unfolding layers of mystery, where one encounters menacing ghosts and a determined hare advancing vengefully through the nettles that flank the silver road. Along the way, we meet characters such as Sgilti Lightfoot and the red gloves; we also experience some of the hidden fantasies in a changing room. In this creative offering, Catherine Fisher holds up the mirror, that humanity may see itself transcending through realms.
With the certitude of an ancient sage, Fisher conjures worlds and alternate universes, pointing humanity to spaces beyond itself. She invokes the forces of the firmaments, the vagaries of the weather, myths, legends and magic, with salient messages that are the very informing principles behind the weaving of each tale. Horror in these plots becomes a tool of conveyance; taking off as an enigma and tapering off to the point of demystification. There is a point of initiation; where the reader is absorbed into the narrative, the reader becomes the characters; a state of literary quandary. This happens to be the point at which The Red Gloves and Other Stories draws me in; I am Sgilti, searching for light in an endless pit of darkness, groping through endless weavings of mystery, with nothing but a pounding in my heart! And did I find the globe and break darkness into beautiful dawn? You bet I did!
One might mistake “The Introduction” for an authorial intrusion, one that seems to suggest meanings and impose ideas. On the contrary, it offers historicity that enriches the imagination and opens up possibilities of interpretations. The nine plots derive their contextual undergirding from the unnumbered tenth story- “The Introduction”. “The Silver Road” weighs the love of half-brothers whose loyalties defy realities and dreams. The mythopoeic quality of Fisher’s storytelling confers epic status on the stories, as all the protagonists embark on emotional, psychological and physical trips. And while we journey with the half-brothers and Sgilti into the creepy dangers of other worlds, wading through thick unwinding shrubberies and brambles, we are again confronted by the mischief of vindictive red gloves and their blind sophistry and sophistication. Well, those must have ended up in a lacklustre charity shop with no mean destination, as their endless journey for comfort continues.
Catherine Fisher’s mystical lucidity is apt― she invokes all the elements of matter and nature; water, air, fire, earth, wood, metal and much more, burrowing into the forage of the paranormal. The world of shape-shifters and the endless telekinesis become cinematic through its pages. And we naturally fall in love with the clairvoyance of kids as they navigate their emotions and fantasies, learning lessons of a lifetime and growing both in sensory and psychological terms, before our eyes. The reader must be grateful for these phenomenal adventures that merge the spheres of the living, the dead and the paranormal into a circle of life. The creative deployment of this inter-cosmic relationship is well-meaning, as the author implies; nothing comes from nothing, nothing happens for nothing.
Fisher’s words are like powerfully strung magical beads, a thousand pieces shattering and banging off a concrete floor, whispering, “Make of me what you wish”! There is unseen energy and frequency of inexplicable things; they all have roots knotted in mysteries that only curiosity can dare to unearth. And for once, the supposed horror characters are not calling for blood but restitution and redress; here lies the wit and genius of the text. Each page screams, “something is coming through… something is coming through…”, but the innocence and curiosity of these fictional boys and girls prevail. Catherine Fisher’s Red Gloves and Other Stories defies time and space, doling out lessons, and like the end of all works of literature, holding up “The Mirror”.
The Red Gloves and Other Stories is Published by Firefly Press and can be purchased here