Review: Flower of Scotland Volume 4, William Meikle, 2020.
This is the final volume in Meikle’s Flower of Scotland chapbook series.
“The Silent Dead” is one of Meikle’s Augustus Seton stories, a series I particularly like. Seton is often a troubleshooter for King James I, and this time he’s sent to investigate some unholiness around Loch Leven – which happens to be where the king’s mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was imprisoned.
Sandy, of “Sandy Says So”, is the imaginary playmate of Sheena, young girl stuck with an obnoxious stepmother. Said stepmother is obnoxious to not only Sheena but her husband and father-in-law. She’s adulterous too. Naturally she gets a comeuppance.
“Captain’s Log” is a jokey environmental story with “spaceshit” coming out a “sub-space anomaly”.
“Leisure” is another jokey story about a man turning into a book. It all shares some imagery with Meikle’s Sigils and Totems series.
Dark humor and Meikle’s frequent interest in stories with rhythms and cycles shows up in “Lacunae”, a story about mysterious disappearance on Earth.
“The Queue” is what I expect flash fiction to be: full of portent and implications as well as being short. Here the narrator describes being in a line that moves forward every 15 seconds. What’s at its end?
Meikle’s ghost stories often surprise, and “Overheard”, a story of a man affectionately telling us about his dead wife, has not one but two twists.
“Hotline” is a surrealistic, and for me too obscure, story of a man taking revenge on his wife and her lover through magic.
“Up and Down the Food Chain” seemed familiar to me when its protagonist, a depressed and angry businessman, visits KONTROL, a sex shop, and looks at the bondage gear. (I believe there’s a similar scene in one of Meikle’s Derek Adams novels and also The Road Hole Bunker Mystery, but I’ll admit I didn’t practice blogger due diligence and confirm that.) But the story definitely doesn’t end like those others. The question posed to him by a woman who wants him to whip her: is he a victimizer or a survivor? The story ends on an ambiguous note, but well-deployed ambiguity and not mere obscurity.
“#solstice #dreams” is not quite as good as Meikle’s other Twitter stories. This one is about the faerie luring a man to a party on the summer solstice.
This final chapbook in the series is not quite as good as its predecessors but still worth picking up.