The Hive and Other Stories is author Nigel Legg’s first published work and the names of the stories make me smile with The Elephants Get It and Morphine Dreams invoking a colourful selection. I am right in a way as there is plenty of colour in what comes up next but not quite as I expected.
Legg, was born and brought up in Zambia but attended boarding school in Somerset and university in Bristol and Bangor. He has lived in Sri Lanka but these days calls Bristol home. The stories are mainly based in Africa with local names of towns in Zambia and authentic sounding details about farming, easily flowing, as background.
The first story, the Hive, starts with a sinister introduction for the reader, and the protagonist, to an unheard of Zambian department rounding up people and locking them away. The scene unfolds through the eyes of the farmer who isn’t great a controlling his temper. Legg manages to mix current and serious national issues with personal quirks. The piece sets the tone and I am not quite sure what to expect from now on.
The Elephants Get It is another foray into an alternative reality with a new president’s ingenious way of getting money from the IMF. Blood from a stone would be more likely, I thought, but the story was spot on in pointing out the indifference of western nations to the plight of people.
This is followed by Morphine Dreams which is just as quick to read but leaves a whole different feel to it. Brief but touching.
The tales are quirky and unusual with the unnamed protagonist venturing through different situations without pause. The text flows and it didn’t take me long to get through to the final part.
The last four stories are versions of one scene as told through the eyes of different characters. This worked well but it was a bit of a dense way to end the book. I would have liked at least one more stand alone short story with which to finish. Perhaps I just wanted more stories.
I liked not knowing how it would end, especially with the Hive where the unusual became normal very quickly. I’m looking forward to the next collection as Legg surely must have more to share. Maybe they’ll feature a Bristol I’m not used to seeing. I am feeling hopeful.