The Writer's, artist's & reader's Guild

Review: Birdsnatch by C.J. Cummings & Mark Ryan

Birdsnatch - Cover

Publisher: Own

Genre: Supernatural/Bizarro/Science-Fiction

Series: A Tale Told Twice

What happens when two authors take one word and build a story from it independently, without any common parameters or rules? That is the plan behind the A Tale Told Twice series and first out is the strange worlds of Birdsnatch; an experiment between C.J. Cummings and Mark Ryan.

The first Birdsnatch Tale is by C.J Cummings and the apocalypse is upon us. As people all around the world are hiding in their underground bunkers Melon, a thieving, hoarding, nasty man has another idea. He is finally going to do what he has always planned to do and that is to transform into the hero Birdsnatch. While his cat/rat pet Cattermole watches he dresses in a superhero costume and ventures out into the empty world. During his exploration his Birdsnatch persona takes over more and more, the opposite of his depraved true personality. He meets Trinket, another outcast, who has escaped a life trapped in a bunker with her father and his friends. Like Melon she has dreams of being something other than what she is, but without going to the same extremes. Together they watch the world burn, hunting for food and living in a nest with Cattermole.

The second Birdsnatch tale, written by Mark Ryan, is set in the future. A future where plastic surgery has become very dangerous. So dangerous in fact that when it goes wrong it turns the patients into mutated, deranged killers. Faye Crichly is an administrator who has been assigned to a special task force designed to take out these mutated victims. Events become more interesting when Dex Finor, the second son in a prominent family, vanishes after fat reduction surgery. It is also revealed that the Government, the second government, has willingly experimented with plastic surgery to produce mutated monsters. When Finor surfaces the team must spring into action.

The concept of finding a word and then have two authors create separate tales from it is an interesting one, more so if the tales share a similar beginning or taking off point. Birdsnatch, the word, is the only thing Cummings’ and Ryan’s stories have in common and therefore the yarn they spin from that becomes less interesting. The most fascinating part is how varied the stories actually are; In Cummings’ fiction we are confronted with a husk of a man finally getting the opportunity to be the hero he has always wanted and what happens to him once that personality begins to dominate their shared body. This is more interesting than what has brought on the ensuing end of the world, as is the few other characters one encounters in the story.

Ryan’s tale on the other hand gives the reader a fascinating glimpse into quite a bleak future. The politics and structure of that world is only hinted at, but is interesting enough that, as a reader, one has to ask oneself what has lead to this. In contrast to this fact Ryan’s main character or any character for that matter are fairly uninteresting or engaging. It isn’t until the very end that one really starts to wonder what the implications of the actions of the government will have on the world.

Since both tales are so very different it would be unfair or even unwise to pin them against each other, both of them have strengths and weaknesses, but are both worth a read.

Cummings’ tale is an open and closed story whereas Ryan’s definitely gives the impression of an introduction or prequel to a grander story that he may revisit in the future. Cummings’ is also the only author who constantly uses the word Birdsnatch where Ryan uses it but twice. This makes it seem as if Cummings wins out in the end, seeing as he used the word better, but without knowing the parameters of the method used it is a moot point. The stories are both wonderfully told in their weirdness and there are some truly bizarre aspects, but never going overboard.

In the end Birdsnatch becomes an interesting exercise in how different two writers can imagine the same word, but it never breaks down any doors. Instead it is a good introduction to two young authors who very clearly have exciting and bizarre tales to to tell.

C.M. Marry Hultman

C.M. Marry Hultman

Birdsnatch is available from amazon.com

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