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Chris James Stories of Genesis review

Stories from one Genesis fan to all others

Chris James brings out 'a new kind of fan fiction'

How does Captain Picard spend his free time on the Enterprise? How did Colonel Hogan meet his Heroes? When the pleasure of such fanciful conjectures meets a passion for story-telling in a fan the outcome may be "fan fiction" - stories by one fan to all others that are, at best, told as well as the original. Fan fiction about the Starship Enterprise measures by the yard, and a trilogy about shades of a certain colour has recently put fan fiction on the bestseller lists
„A new kind of fan fiction“ is what Chris James promises in his book Stories Of Genesis. Justly so. Unlike the StarTrek universe the lyrics of Genesis do not offer a world in which an author could locate their story. James does not simply tell „the story of (e.g.) Salmacis“ either; what is in the lyrics is just one thread, one colour in the narrative tapestry he weaves. If you know both the lyrics and the story you will notice the connections, but nobody will find the story lacking when they do not know the lyrics. Of course, discovering the allusions and occasional direct quote will increase the fun in reading, but the stories do nicely without that, too.

James tells us five stories, and he carefully lists mentions which Genesis song inspired him to each one. This is comfortable because readers can move straight to the songs/stories they are particularly interested in, but it also takes away the excitement of finding out which song inspired Chris James.

Three songs are among the „usual suspects“. After all, the lyrics for A Trick Of The Tail, Duchess and Dreaming While You Sleep already tell a story. James is not contented with simply elaborating on these stories, though. For Mr Magrew's Incredible Journey which remains closest to the song lyrics of A Trick Of The Tail he finds an extraordinary and unusual narrator. The Chat Show Host moves away from the Duchess lyrics and focuses on one particular moment. One Regret is not so much about the accident in Dreaming While You Sleep as about going on with life after it. Down And Out, the fourth song treated here, is not quite one that makes lots of story ideas pop up in your mind. The song has, however, inspired the brief sketch The Agent Lunges that also bits of Just A Job To Do in it; a cleverly constructed pun brings the book to an end.

coverChris James proves remarkable courage with The Final Battle, the story that takes up nearly half the book. He has divided it into seven parts in which he tells a story based on motives from none other than Supper's Ready. It is extremely difficult not to fail with such an attempt. Whether Chris James has failed or succeeded is something every reader will have to make up their own minds about. He has, it must be said, actually found an ingenous way to link the disparate locations and events of the seven parts of Supper's Ready. Few things are impossible in science fiction; however, the fact that many names in the story resemble those of Shakespearean characters creates a peculiar effect of alienation the reviewer found a bit jarring, but then, as the Bard would have said, „what's in a name?“

The multitude of narrators and genres used makes the Stories Of Genesis a colourful book. All five adhere to the principles of the short story, which means that readers are thrown into a story that has been going on without them; they have to invent the world around the story for themselves, as it were. This need not be a disadvantage. However, The Final Battle abounds with things readers are required to accept at face value; they are, perhaps, a bit too numerous here at least for the reviewer's liking who would have wished for a bit more background. James makes up for these little blemishes in all stories with a number of cleverly introduced (near) quotes from Genesis lyrics, and the jury is still out on whether they are more effective when the direct quote happens of when there the quote is carefully avoided at the last moment.

Genesis fans will have to keep in mind that this book has only tangential links with Genesis: The book „only“ picks up on certain motives in the lyrics in order to vary and expand on them. If you can free yourself from excessive „Genesis expectations“ you will be able to enjoy these stories. Those who enjoy it very much will be particularly pleased that the title has been expanded with the words „Volume 1“.

by Martin Klinkhardt (08/2013)

Stories of Genesis is available here:

eBook (amazon-uk | amazon-us | smashwords)
Paperback (amazon-uk |