Tania Hershman has become something of a shining light in the short story world in recent years, particularly on these shores. Not only has she released her own critically lauded collections and been featured in countless publications, but she has also begun to be seen as the go to guru for all your short story questions, a writer who uses social media to encourage and support the careers of others who would like to emulate her success. If you’re a short story writer and you aren’t following her on Twitter then stop reading this review right now; find her @taniahershman.
More so than in her previous collections, though, it is her past career as a science journalist that comes to the fore in Some of Us Glow More Than Others. And for this reviewer, at least, that was a little problematic. Hershman has always offered a mix of flash fiction/vignettes alongside a few lengthier stories. In almost everything she writes she shows a skill and discipline that make her prose almost flawless. But in some of the stories in the this collection, the ones which almost always take place in a lab and seem to be wanting to make some kind of lofty point about the importance of science, the story doesn’t match the power of the prose. The emotion that previous collections by the author has been filled with is lacking at times.
But that’s not to say it isn’t present at other times. And when it is, some of Hershman’s best stories poke their heads out from under the rubble. ‘The Special Advisor’ introduces us to a character who works in the world of summary executions, and shows us how this small fact eats into every area of their life. ‘Straight Up’ shows us how the image you have of your father can be totally different to the way he is seen by the world. The highlight of the whole collection, ‘Something Like a Tree’, takes a futuristic look at the difficulties of assimilating as a refugee. ‘Flavours’, in just two pages, describes the way in which parenthood changes people, showing them the things they took for granted when they were young.
Any Cop?: Hershman is a first-rate writer. There are times in this collection when nobody would be able to argue with that statement. But there are also times in Some of Us Glow More than Others when the desire to get her science into her fiction doesn’t quite work, the two not meshing as she might have hoped. But it is still an extremely readable book by one of the best in the business, it just might be as endlessly captivating as some of what she’s offered in the past.