Ten-year-old Sydney is about to have his first strung ball inserted, by having a cube of his own flesh removed in order to attach the strung ball. Once a strung ball is inserted, it must never be taken out. But what are the supposed consequences if your strungballs are removed?
What is a strung ball? Well, to be honest I’m still not entirely certain (even with the help of the impressive front cover artwork), and I’m sure my imaginative brain has conjured up a completely unique vision of how these look when attached to a person. However, it’s this bizarre thinking that keeps you reading on to try and get any further clues as to what these strung balls are all about.
Having a strung ball inserted is like a right of passage, from child to adult. This initiation means that you are now part of the city, where the inhabitants must always “do what is good”. Everyone appears to want to be connected to the strungballs franchise, as it were. They either want to make them, advertise or sell them, and is seen as a very impressive status if you happen to be part of the cogs in getting strung balls to the mass public.
The real fun begins when little Sydney begins questioning the strung balls, and why the city is protected by a large barrier. I found this idea quite intriguing to read, where everybody inside the city seems content in their own little bubble, happily having strung balls inserted in them but nobody really knowing a great deal why. And what is the purpose of offering a cube of your own flesh in exchange for these? The awkwardness of the conversations, even between Sydney and his parents, I really liked. It gives a subtle tone of creepiness, letting you know that something is not quite right here.
Towards the end of the novella I admit that I became a bit lost, as everything important seemed to happen quite suddenly and then the story finished. I would have preferred it if a little mystery still lingered in the air, where the questioning of why and who were still debated.
Mike Russell’s novella is an interesting short read. I did enjoy the first half of the story, especially the conversations between the family that seem to praise everything about strung balls. I felt as though the ending seemed a bit abrupt, but it did not stop me from enjoying the overall book. Thoroughly recommended as a quick read before bed, perhaps with a good intake of an assortment of cheeses, to get those crazy dreams flowing.
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