Shades of Kafka: Open Up, by Thomas Morris, reviewed

Thomas Morris has a knack of writing about ordinary things in an unsettling way and unsettling things in an ordinary way. He described his debut collection of ten stories set in Caerphilly, We Don’t Know What We’re Doing, as ‘realism with a kink’. Open Up, a slimmer second offering of five stories, amps up the Kafka. One is narrated by a seahorse, another by a vampire. Morris’s attitude towards his characters remains central: while displaying their darkest secrets, you sense he’s on their side. Here, the narrators are all male. From a young boy to a thirtysomething, they negotiate masculinity’s contradictory demands, accused of being distant, passive and unambitious. Individually,

A paranormal romance that seems to go nowhere: NVK, by Temple Drake, reviewed

NVK, which is the IATA (International Air Transport Association) code for Narvik’s old airport, is in this instance Naemi Vieno Kuusela, a Finnish femme fatale whom we first meet in this novel in North Karelia in 1579 and later in the company of Zhang Guo Xing, a wealthy Chinese businessman, in a Shanghai nightclub in 2012. This surely offers a clue about her. But, as she says on page 118: You think you know what I am. You have no idea. I’m not in any of your books. You try to catch me. Your hands grasp empty air. I’m not a story you can tell. That doesn’t sound like a