Steve Thomason:

This book has quite a different feel to it than “A Matter of Degree”, Colin’s first novel, though, like that book, the stories are still set in worlds that the author obviously knows.  It contains two short stories, the first about half an hour’s read, the second, perhaps an evening’s.  Both are well written but easy to read. 

The first,“Fragile”, is a story concerning a headmaster and his missing wife.  It starts intriguingly in the past, catching the attention well.  We’re left wondering what exactly happened to the wife all those years ago and wanting to get to the end of the story to find out what secret the Head is keeping – although he’s portrayed so sympathetically that it’s difficult to believe the worst of him, even though that seems one possibility you shouldn’t rule out altogether.

The second story “Out of This World” centres around a role play exercise initiated by a young teacher as part of a Current Affairs module of lessons.  The story is told from several viewpoints; the teacher’s, one of the students’ diary entries and a narrative of events set in and around the lessons.  As the project progresses, events begin to spiral out of control, leading to disaster for many of those involved.  You know that disaster is approaching but, even so, it still comes as something of a shock as it finally does unfold.   The end of the story brings everything into focus and, although I found that it took a little while to get going, this was probably intentional as it’s the way that the tension is built that is the key to this story.   I’m aware that the author is an ex-teacher and that he actually trialled something very similar to this fictional project – with much less dramatic consequences I hope!   I was left wondering at some points though whether this story was aimed at “adult” or “young adult” audiences as the diary entries and narrative parts are largely from the teenage students’ viewpoints and the teacher is presented as a lot more naïve, and in many ways immature, than the teachers I worked with throughout my own career. Despite these few reservations, it was, like the first, one where you wanted to find out what happened.   Definitely one to read in one go; you don’t want to put it down until you find out what happens.