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Photocopies Of Heaven
Maurice Suckling
Elastic paperback £5.99

review by Sean Parker

Maurice Suckling has written for television and radio, has produced and directed several plays, and now works in the field of computer game development. Last year, he was given a Northern Promise Award by New Writing North. Oh, and apparently he "likes how newly photocopied paper is warm."

Photocopies Of Heaven is Suckling's first collection, and pretty good it is too. The stories focus on the oddities of life, tiny events of significance only to those involved, basically just stuff that happens, but Suckling mostly manages to cast them in an intriguing, sometimes off-kilter manner. Photocopies is very much based in the present, characters have jobs they don't particularly want, they have run-of-the-mill concerns about where their lives are going. There is a story called September 12th. I think I can also recall an i-pod or two.

Some of the pieces are made up of e-mails and text messages. Occasionally their use seems a little pointless, especially in 160 chrctrs, which is written in that terrible language-mangling manner no doubt familiar to mobile phone owners everywhere ("swot happened 2 me 2day: new guy @ work sat @ pc nxt 2 me...") Nothing seems to be gained from this style of telling though, it seems to be there just for the sake of it. Thankfully, most of the collection is free from such gimmicks.

The characters are, on the whole, a likeable bunch. Some appear in several stories, sometimes narrating, sometimes as a minor character, sometimes just mentioned in passing. This adds, along with the subject matter, to the feeling of a cohesive whole, rather than merely a random collection. The writing is smooth, somewhat detached, not prone to fits of excessive emotion. The stories themselves are often quite funny, sometimes verging on the surreal or the fantastic, and occasionally unexpectedly moving. Often all at the same time.

My personal favourites would have to be Identity Renting (for the rather odd central character), Televisionism, the story of a brief career in television magic shows, and The Spark Of Divinely Random Intervention which it is better to read than to have it reduced to a short plot synopsis. There is also the comic strip in six parts which reappears at intervals throughout the book, in which Darth Vader and Ghandi make a guest appearance.

A solid debut, thoughtful, entertaining, polished, and only very occasionally frustrating. But then again, I loathe mobile phones...
Photocopies of Heaven by Maurice Suckling

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