Review of ‘Reality, and Other Stories’ by John Lanchester

I enjoyed these eight sinister tales. They all involve contemporary technology in some way, giving a fresh update to the usual supernatural tropes. I prefer this collection to the novel The Wall.

With a variety of narrators, styles and tones, these stories all held my interest. They can be moving, or darkly humorous, but they are all thought-provoking and provide commentary on the way we live. They’re not just about scares.

‘Signal’ is a haunted house story and a wry look at ‘first world problems’.

‘Coffin Liquor’ is a gothic slow-burner with a hint of Dracula.

‘Which of These Would You Like?’ is a Kafka-esque dystopian nightmare and the most frightening in the collection because it might be true.

‘We Happy Few’ is a discussion between philosophy professors who might just regret wishing all the ‘stupid’ people would disappear.

‘Reality’ is set in a ‘Big Brother’-style house but where are the cameras and why have the housemates been given no tasks?

‘Cold Call’ is very creepy and also an exploration of the stress women are under to have careers, look after their children and their ageing parents.

‘The Kit’ is an odd story which although the messages are still relevant, seems dated because it reminds me of old science fiction.

‘Charity’ examines the reasons why items end up in charity shops and why people work there. It also has a colonial theme. Oh yes, and it’s about an evil selfie stick.

If you’re looking for a quick, scary read with a techno-twist, I recommend this book.

First published in 2020.

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