Earlier this year, I reviewed Mark Fuller-Dillon's short story collection In a Season of Dead Weather, which is still one of my reads of the year; so I couldn't resist following it up with this intriguing "science fiction" novella, All Roads Lead to Winter. It's not often that I finish reading a book and say to myself, "Wow! That was quite something," but I did with this one.
This is a supremely incisive tale, almost an allegory for the modern condition. Thomas Bridge is a political prisoner, alone in a remote Canadian prison camp. When he visits his wife's grave, he is visited by Avdryana, a feline female; she is one of the Dwellers of the Night, inhabitants of a parallel Earth who are trying to save humanity from self-destruction. Their liaison lasts the night, and is beautifully described. Here, All Roads Lead to Winter becomes almost a love story; but it is so much more than that. Fuller-Dillon creates remarkable prose, and this simple tale blossoms into a touchingly well-observed account of how alien species may interact.
'Avdryana turned away from the screen and gave him a tilt of her cougar-like head. "When our kind travels, we love to feel the wind on our faces, the cold and the heat on our fur. We are Dwellers of the Night, and we live to feel the rigours of the world. To us, your vehicles are filled with dead textures and dead air; they feel like coffins."'
This novella is driven by punchy dialogue, expertly handled, which is a refreshing change from many contemporary writers who shy away from such complex interaction. I was enchanted by the story of Thomas and Avdryana, and I could not stop reading until Thomas's fate was revealed – his choice made. All Roads Lead to Winter is a wonderful tale, expertly told and perfectly formed. It feels like it must have been a very personal journey for the author. Go and download a copy now; Mark Fuller-Dillon is a rare talent who deserves to be much more widely read.