Off the Shelf—“People on the Edge”

By Marcus Pan

Chain Border

People on the EdgeSue Simpson’s third book(1), this time a collection of short stories from the back of her head. People on the Edge has a large assortment of mostly dark and twisted stories and poems. I found a lot that I could recognize here, having been a receiver of Sue’s work for Legends for some years now. It was interesting seeing what other editors would do with her shorts that I didn’t, and vice versa.

While some of my cohorts have given People on the Edge middle-of-the-line reviews, I rate it highly. The stories are slick and swift, as always for Sue, and her writing style is completely twisted with a nod to the very graphic details she has become known for. Many of my favorites are here as well, including Pact of Joy, The Black Marble, The Half Empty Glass to name a few that Legends readers would be familiar with. There’s also tons more that I’ve seen cross my desk, but rejected because they just didn’t fit Legends’ format. But all do stay within the vein of Sue’s darkness.

Having been a nurse in various capacities for many years, Sue’s stories take us on various journeys through some of the darkest moments of health, disease and insanity. While short, many stories not passing five pages in the journal sized book, they can be quite visual in a macabre way. Her descriptive prowess hasn’t waned at all and her mastery at bringing forth multiple viewpoints within but a few pages, such as the cross-hatch of minds in Slow or the strangest of viewpoints in I Haven’t Got a Pen, Dear God. Sometimes you’ll find slivers of hope however dreary, and others a complete trip into the strange and unusual – the latter of which I find The Big Picture to be a fabulous example of.

I do have a caveat with the book’s layout however – it would be so much easier to write this review and maybe even delve further into some of the best to be found here if there was a table of contents. I could use it to jump to the stories that stand out in my mind better and maybe talk a bit more about them – but unfortunately there isn’t one. It goes from the Foreword right into the first story, Let Me Think, a short but deep tale about a patient in a coma.

Bond of Union meanwhile is a tale of two kids just learning about life and love – while stuck in a very strict wardership environment. You’ll find yourself coursing along from tragedy to tragedy. While the glimmers of hope I mentioned are there, they are few and far between. So I wouldn’t suggest this collection to anyone who isn’t strong and happy, if you know what I mean. Suicide, for example, as well as death are very common themes in almost all of the stories. And Sue’s knack for visuals bring it to virtual life before your eyes.

Highly recommended for any dark fiction reader. And it’s a swift read as well…flows quite good.

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“People on the Edge” by Sue Simpson
Copyright © 2003 by Sue Simpson
Published by PublishBritannica
ISBN: 1-4137-0796-3

The first was a children’s book, and the second was Better the Devil You Know, reviewed in Legends #137.

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