The 26 Jules Feifferesque illustrations by Kelly Maryanski perfectly complement Burns’s writing, which is most effective when focused on affectionate relationships, such as the ones between great-uncle and grandnephew in “Redemption,” father and son in “Hardwired,” and a 12-year-old and his grandfather in “The Final Countdown.” Burns falters in exploring darker elements in the lurid and alcohol-fueled “Grace” and “The Plight of Maximus Octavius Reinhold,” a short story featuring a character from Burns’s novel A Fine Line.
The novella has contradictory problems—it is both predictable and overly complex—and these flaws and its length make reading slow going. There is also a challenging lack of clarity in “Adrift at Sea,”a short story without a clear place or time, and “The Plight of Maximus Octavius Reinhold.” Science fiction fans interested more in story than science are the most likely to enjoy Burns’s work, as he puts a human face on larger societal concerns about aging, resource depletion, and remaining emotionally connected in the digital age.
Takeaway: This multi-genre collection of stories about characters at life-altering crossroads will appeal most to science fiction readers.
Great for fans of Graham Greene, Marilynne Robinson, Gene Wolfe.
Design and typography: B-
Marketing copy: B-
The initial reviews for Grace: Stories and a Novella are in!
“Grace is writing and literature at its very best. Themes such as moral strength, grace, dignity, self-worth, and human frailty play important roles in Burns’s stories. These are not cardboard characters but real people who love, hate, worry, deny, and seek revenge.” (Charles K.)
“Dan Burns gives us beautifully crafted narratives that stand out like designs for life. We clearly see the situations, characters, internal battles for personal and public “grace,” and sometimes even see ourselves. These are stories that you’ll talk about long after the covers are closed and they become part of your personal story life.” (marssie M.)
“A compelling read. Dan Burns has delivered an excellently-written collection of stories with well-defined characters. I enjoyed being immersed into the lives of everyday people facing challenging situations that force them to reach deep to find the individual inner grace needed to go on.” (Pat C.)