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Nina Allan
TTA Novella / The Third Alternative Press
UK Trade Paperback First Edition
ISBN 978-0-955-36836-3
Publication Date: 05-03-2013
96 Pages; £6.00
Date Reviewed: 06-25-2013
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2013

Index:  Science Fiction  General Fiction  Fantasy  Horror  

The verb "see" is complicated; it describes the act of visually apprehending the world around us. But even that definition includes the verb "apprehend," which implies knowing the world around us. Seeing is believing, we are told. No matter what we see or say, the act of seeing is much more complicated than we might first suspect.

Seeing the world around you is your first experience of Nina Allan's 'Spin,' a superb vision of art, knowing and purpose set in a present-day Greece that bears some semblance to ours, but less than we might at first be tempted to think. We meet Layla as she's getting on the bus to leave home for the first time. Her father is not there to see her off; her mother is dead. Layla is a spinner, a natural artist who from the earliest age has been able to create tapestries of stunning beauty. On her journey to the city, she meets a disturbing old woman, who seems to know her. But she arrives safely and begins a new life working in a factory while creating new art, with an towards exhibition. The destiny she is weaving is considerably more complex.

Nina Allan's careful sculpted sentences immerse in a world that at first feels rich and familiar, even as she subtly shifts things and lets us know this is very much not the case. 'Spin' is a joy to read, rich and immersive as the art it describes. Allan pulls off the very hard feat of creating the creative work of another artist, and there are sentences and scenes that are simply dazzling to read.

Equally dazzling is the world-building. Allan creates a rich version of modern Greece that feels intimate and real. The hints as to how things are different are tantalizing enough that readers will feel as if they've read a trilogy's worth of prequels, even though the book tops out at under a hundred pages. Allan makes a lot of heavy lifting seems as light as a spider's web.

The feel of 'Spin' is incredibly rich; at times creepy, at times fantastic, always real and just a little off-kilter. Here's a book that will satisfy a wide variety of readers, from those who like horror fiction — though there are no real scares or really horror per se, just a creepy but gorgeous atmosphere — to those who like literature that discusses art in a complicated and engaging manner to those who just want to leave this world and find another next door that is very much like ours but also very different. This novella is not to be missed, and once you read you won't have to. This vision will trap you in a web from which you will have no desire to escape.

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