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Differently There

Now available from Gray Friar Press

A man sits in a hospital side room awaiting the cancer surgery that may or may not save his life. As the minutes tick by, time slows and gradually becomes meaningless as he finds himself drawn into memories of his past. But something is wrong. Rather than real memories, what he finds himself remembering are events subtly altered and influenced by his lifelong love of fantasy, horror and science fiction. And through these memories, something is pursuing him.
John Llewellyn Probertís novella is a tale of magic realism that provides a fascinating and moving insight into the mind of a fantasy fan whose lifelong love of the genre turns out to be more important than he had ever realised.

Reviews and Comments

  With his Gray Friar Press hat on, Gary Fry is part responsible for the delivery into the world of DIFFERENTLY THERE (Gray Friar Press pb, 112pp, £7.99) by John Llewellyn Probert. Paul Webster is in hospital for an operation to remove a cancerous tumour. A medical man himself, Paul is well aware of the dangers attendant on the procedure, but on the night before he is due to go under the knife there is a much greater danger waiting in the wings. He has a series of very vivid dreams in which he revisits past events Ė an encounter with a dog as a child, an affair with a married woman, a meal with the woman who is to be his wife and the great love of his life. Except each of these memories turns dark, is infected by a minatory presence. Finally manifesting, the entity responsible for this threat offers Paul a deal Ė if he agrees to give up these memories it will increase his chances of surviving the operation.
            This brief novella, which was inspired by true events including the authorís own visit to hospital for an operation, is perhaps the best thing that I have seen from the pen of John Llewellyn Probert. Itís a story in which he does everything just right, from the opening scene in which inanimate objects appear to have reason as a way of introducing and foreshadowing the main character, capturing our attention through the novelty of this approach, straight through to the final end note of ambiguity, with its deft sidestepping of the expected happy ever after. The almost laidback writing gets under the skin, with matter of fact accounts of cancer deeply unsettling, in part because they are so restrained and pitched in a way that we can all identify with, the archetypal horror of the visit to hospital with all its implications. Each of the memories is vividly realised on the page and there are echoes, in the way in which each is consumed by darkness, of fantasy classic The Never Ending Story.
Central to Probertís text is the concept of memory, the idea that our memories are essentially who we are, and to change any one is to alter ourselves irrevocably also. He doesnít use the word soul, but implicit in everything here is the idea that human beings are more than mere bodies, and contingent on that is the related concept that our fantasies are a part of that uber-identity (Paul has visions of a young woman he encountered in a work of fiction as a child, and this creature of the imagination is able to help him resist the tempter).
Equally impressive is the understated nature of the evil in the story. While essentially this is a deal with the devil type scenario, with memories in lieu of a soul, when the nemesis manifests it is outwardly mundane, identifying itself as nothing more than the cause of all the things that go wrong in a life, the personification of bad luck if you wish to think of it in such terms, and unable to do anything more than offer Paul better odds (it is not omnipotent).
On this evidence, and his earlier British Fantasy Award winning The Nine Deaths of Dr Valentine, the novella seems to be a form that agrees with Probert very much.

From a review in Black Static, Issue 44

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