William Ottoway’s Utopia and Other Stories by Christopher Griffith

William Ottoway’s Utopia and Other Stories by Christopher Griffith
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Historical, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

‘Come, Manou, this is superstitious clap.’ So says William Ottoway to his island’s priest, for the modern world has surely extinguished any notion of the supernatural? But some who have lived before our technological revolution hold grave concerns about this new reality which has all but supplanted the numinous element of human existence. Despite warning from his best friend’s mother against attempting to replicate paradise, William puts faith alone in idealism to create a utopian society in the tropics. All seems well, until his serpent brother appears with temptation…

William Ottoway’s Utopia concerns the dream of a man who seeks to escape stresses of everyday life for promised ease in this world’s tropics; to his dismay, he is unable to flee influence of the one appliance which has arguably shaped all our experience in the last half century, the humble television set! William is a good man, but will he be ravaged and ruined by his brother Tom who brings discord and disharmony to his island paradise?

Rick With A (Bipolar) View details the experience of a young man suffering from bipolar disorder who wants to be a professional DJ. Unsure whether or not the repetitive beats of electronic music and his obsession with trance and techno may be the cause of his illness, he nevertheless accepts offer of a Friday night gig and ‘takes the roof off’ the nightclub, coming down back at home in glow and reflection of his achievement.

If all this sounds too intense then do please head over to Break Out the Bubbly!!, a comic piece set in a supermarket whose Manager is acting in very strange manner indeed. The initial boredom felt by our hero Emily is quickly shattered by Carol’s arrival and subsequent farce as she seems intent on closing the shop during opening hours to conduct inquisitions in the boardroom! The champagne keeps going missing, you see, and she needs to find the culprit. Is he, or she, a little closer to home than everyone thinks?

Fantasy for the next story, Saman’s Revenge, in which our titular hero is seriously miffed with the Earth-goddess Thera; she’s punished him an aeon ago for misdemeanour which he firmly believes really wasn’t his fault at all. Anyway, when you’re immortal and old as the hills themselves it doesn’t bother you too much to wait a few millennia before exacting your revenge on modern day teenagers Jack, Roxie, her boyfriend Mark and his brother Norman. But what is the young people’s relation to Thera, and temple ruins on top of the village hill, Shadyridge?
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Which leaves Young Shakespeare, my imaginative retelling of some of Will’s ‘lost years’ when he reached London; after all, who wouldn’t want to fall in love with Anne, listen in awe to Sir Walter Raleigh’s perorations on, well who knows, meet his future friend and rival Christopher ‘Kit’ Marlowe, then cogitate at length upon the Reformation against whose profound change the budding writer begins to conclude he might wish to work?

This is an excellent time to begin using your imagination.

I struggled to understand “William Ottoway’s Utopia” because of how sparsely it was written. So many of the sentences in it were either fragments or extremely short, and it wasn’t always clear to me how they fit together. It would have been helpful to have more details of the plot and character development. The bits and pieces I figured out about the island and the serpent were intriguing.

The main character in “Rick with a (Bipolar) View” wondered if his Bipolar disorder was going to affect his dreams of becoming a DJ. Like the first tale in this collection, this one was also so sparsely written that I had trouble following it at times. With that being said, I liked the main character quite a bit and hoped he’d figure out a way to follow his dreams. He certainly had the determination to do so!

As soon as I began reading “Break Out the Bubbly,” I began wondering what really happened to the missing champagne in Sheila’s struggling shop. Each character had their own opinion on this matter, and some of them expressed their views sharply. The more I read, the more curious I became to figure everything out. This tale was well written and included just enough mystery elements to keep me guessing.

Mr. Griffith’s writing style worked well with the fantasy elements of “Saman’s Revenge,” especially in the beginning when the narrator observed a battalion of mythological creatures fleeing a foe too terrible to describe. There were times when the plot wandered so far away from the original theme that it took me a while to figure out how it was all connected, but I did appreciate putting the pieces together once I had more information about what was going on with the characters.

“Young Shakespeare” was a tantalizing look at what Shakespeare might have been like as a young man. There was a twist here that I can’t mention without giving away major spoilers. What I can say is that it perfectly fit the opening scene that explored Shakespeare in his youth. I smiled when I made the connection between these two things and patiently waited to learn more about it.

William Ottoway’s Utopia and Other Stories was an eclectic mixture of tales that I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys reading a little bit of everything.

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