Strange Medicine – Mike Russell

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Photo: Jade Moore

Published May 5th 2016 by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Format: Paperback
Author: Mike Russell
Genre: Short stories, fiction
Pages: 144
Star rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Opening line:

“Anthony Tobias Bradshaw sits, as usual, on the 7:00 a.m. train, on his way to work.”

Goodreads synopsis:

We recommend the following prescription: Strange Medicine – weird and wonderful stories for all that ails you. Strange Medicine is a fantastic collection of extraordinary tales of transformation by UK weird-fiction author Mike Russell. If you love the strange, surreal and unusual or if you are just looking for something different, Strange Medicine is for you.

I took a chance on this book. When I bought it, I hadn’t even heard of the author before let alone read any of his books. But I saw it on Instagram, and the premise really intrigued me…

This is a collection of short stories categorised under the banner ‘weird fiction’, and they are definitely weird which meant I wasn’t disappointed.

But as well as being weird, they are extremely imaginative and quite brilliant. These stories take everyday situations like going to work and having a relationship, then put a weird spin on them that makes you think differently about the world we’re living in.

The opening story, Flock is very odd. We are introduced to a man, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw (and he is always referred to by his full name) who lives a repetitive and rather mundane existence.

Despite technically being retired, he still returns to work each day, to an empty abandoned office. He does his 9-5 shift, then goes back home to his wife. Except one day things are different, and the routine alters.

It’s a great little story, but the weirdest part is the ending. It’s a satisfying and funny ending, and you won’t be expecting it. This one set the tone for the rest of the book.

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Photo: Jade Moore

The second story, Seventy-Two Bricks, had me feeling as though I was in a dream. I felt like I was part of it, and the two main characters Geoffrey and Tiffany, are very endearing. This is a love story told in an unconventional way, but it’ll still manage to break your heart.

It still has surreal elements, but it was when I read this story that I knew the book wasn’t going to be weird on the extreme end of the spectrum like Russell’s novella Strungballs was. This was a positive realisation, because I could tell that these stories would have a medicine like healing, rather than a shock effect, and that’s exactly what I want from stories as imaginative as these.

My favourite story in the entire collection is without a doubt Mime. It’s also one of the longer stories, and this made it even better because I was enjoying it so much. The plot itself could have rounded up within seven pages, but Russell pushes this idea to its very limits.

What appears at first to be a story exploring mime artists, quickly turns into something much deeper and more meaningful. I was fully immersed in this story so much that I didn’t want it to end. I will never be able to see a mime artist in the same way again, and this story is magical and one I’m sure any mime artist would be proud to read!

So, they are my favourite three from the collection, and to give you an idea of what I thought of the others, here is a breakdown of ratings for each story:

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Cover courtesy of StrangeBooks; graphic designed by Jade Moore via Canva

I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a writer who can take fiction to the next level of imagination, whilst including weird ideas that you never thought could exist. They do exist, and they’re in this book.

Shoutout to Charlie Edwards-Freshwater a.k.a @thebookboy for being the bookstagrammer who posted his thoughts about this book. If I hadn’t seen that, I wouldn’t have known about Strange Medicine.

Link to the book on Goodreads: Strange Medicine

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