Paperback: Tiny Deaths, By Robert Shearman

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The Independent Culture

This is an excellent and highly imaginative first collection of stories by a writer who is not afraid to approach the big subject, mortality, but who does so from interestingly oblique angles and with a light, kittenish gait. Shearman is a playwright and television writer best known for penning the 2005 Doctor Who episode that resurrected the Daleks. There are some notable resurrections here too. The title story, which is the longest and the richest, begins with Jesus on the cross and then follows him into the afterlife, which is not at all as he expected; nor anything that you will have considered either. Superficially profane narrative, it is actually rather profound, and certainly very ingeniously plotted. "Ashes to Ash" uses a similar plot device but is a more throwaway story, about a young girl who dies and is reincarnated as an ashtray.

"Perfect" is a surprising, wistful and indefinably creepy story about families, which makes you think of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go. "Mortal Coil" is an existential black comedy that imagines what a world in which everyone is furnished with foreknowledge of the date and manner of their demise would be like.