Hings: the B-Sides is a further eight witty and surreal stories from Chris McQueer that weren’t included in his collection published earlier this year, Hings (which I reviewed here). There’s the ‘too hot for TV/the original collection’ like the weird ‘Road Closed’ and the disgusting yet strangely relatable ‘Bursting’. Both ‘Love Is Love’ and ‘News’ feel like comedy Scottish snippets of Black Mirror ideas, with the former definitely a comedy smart home advert. For fans of the A-side, there’s another little bit of Sammy, and there’s two little tales with clever twists that feel very much in keeping with the strange twists in Hings itself, ‘Crisp Packets’ and ‘Flowers’.
This is a welcome bunch of up to date and clever short stories, something for fans of Hings and for lending to people to convince them to commit to reading the larger book. In a handy zine format, it’s a great antidote to just reading another pointless Buzzfeed end of year listicle.
Need a holiday read? Something to settle down with outside when the sun actually shines? Or an excuse to stay in and protect yourself from the rays? Here are some of my favourite books being published in July (click on the titles for full reviews). Expect tense friendships, exposure of class differences, and eccentric tales of unusual characters.
How To Stop Time by Matt Haig – Highly anticipated new book by Matt Haig about the perils of immortality when you’re an anxious overthinker.
Watling Streetby John Higgs – History, anecdotes, politics, and society are all covered in this book about the famous Roman road running across England and Wales. Endearing popular history.
Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory – Like a Wes Anderson film in book form, this is the story of a family of psychics and con artists who want to restore their good name. An enchanting summer read.
The Party by Elizabeth Day – A gripping novel about the dark sides of privilege, exposing career politicians and the licences of the rich whilst telling a story of a lifelong yet unequal friendship and its secrets.
The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley – A historical novel about a journey into Peru in the nineteenth-century with an unlikely friendship at its core and a look at understanding others’ beliefs.
The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen – When old and privileged childhood friends end up together on a Greek island, their lives and relationships start to unravel. A tense and ominous literary thriller.
Hings by Chris McQueer – Provocative, hilarious, and darkly surreal short stories focused on working class Scotland, everyday life, and the mundane mixed with the downright weird. Far too enjoyable.
Drink, drugs, and the uncanny: Hings by Chris McQueer
Hings is an adrenaline-paced collection of short stories with surreal twists and riffs on the everyday using puns, weird ideas, and ridiculous scenarios. Drones taking over a postman’s life, everyone’s knees on backwards, the korma police, and a shed with a banging techno night are just a few of the things that crop up in McQueer’s laugh-out-loud short stories. Lengths rang from a few short, sharp pages to a longer tale of a bowls rivalry told in little chunks, making Hings perfect to pick up for a laugh or two, or settle down for a binge on the dark and ridiculous fueled by drink, drugs, and the uncanny.
There are laughs from the first page and the book immediately grabs you in with a hilarious and disgusting story of Sammy deciding to try whelks for the first time. It is packed full of Scottishness, working class life, deadpan comments, and jokes about Harambe and Buzzfeed’s Scottish content. McQueer’s characters are mostly looking for ordinary things—a good time out, money, pals, get through another day at work—but the fucking weird turns up too, making Hings a witty take on everyday life if it got a bit stranger.
The comparisons with Irvine Welsh and Limmy are obvious when you read it, but McQueer is really a master of the hilarious short story, packing in twists and turns in very short spaces and making it hard not to laugh out loud (and cringe occasionally). Hings is one for anyone who likes provocative and fresh short fiction and Scottish humour, or wants to prove they’ve read more than just those Buzzfeed Scottish tweet articles.
[Note: Hings can be preordered here. Cheers 404 Ink for the proof copy!]