Michel Faber's short stories are markedly diverse-the voice of each is so distinct that the book reads like an anthology of different writers. But Faber's radically inventive style fastens all fifteen stories into a compelling collection deserving of the high praise it garnered in the United Kingdom. One surreal story, "Fish," projects a futuristic world populated with fish swimming in the air. As sharks hover in abandoned corners and human zealots of the Church of the Armageddon loose their fanaticism on the innocent, it's a mother's full-time job to protect her young daughter. The title story, "Some Rain Must Fall," tells of a substitute schoolteacher called on in a crisis, and as she encourages her pupils to express their feelings, we learn the source of the class's trouble: a devastating act that resonates with contemporary America. As Garth Morris wrote in the Mail on Sunday (London), "these are well-crafted pieces of quiet forlorn intensity in a very real world."
Readers who were fascinated by Under the Skin, Faber's cleverly grotesque social satire about human animals, will find plenty more where that came from in this beguilingly bizarre collection of 15 short stories. Faber works from a number of different conceits, one of his favorites being to take an ordinary perspective and reverse it, which he does with great imagination in "Toy Story," a whimsical yarn about a wandering young God who finds a ball-shaped planet earth to play with while rummaging in the rubbish. He takes an analogous approach in "Sheep," a tongue-in-cheek meditation about the nature of art in which five New York City artists are spirited away to Scotland under false pretenses for a visit to the nonexistent Alternative Centre of the World. Occasionally the conceits get away from him, though, most notably in "Accountability," a strange, over-the-top account of a poverty-stricken woman facing an abortion: she writes a detailed financial request to NASA after reading about the $23-million toilet required for the mission. "Nina's Hand" has similar problems, as it is told exclusively and somewhat obsessively from the viewpoint of a young woman's hand. As entertaining and interesting as Faber can be, solid character development is relatively rare in these stories. In "The Tunnel of Love," however, the quality of characterizations matches that of the premise, as an unemployed young ad man who takes a job hustling patrons at a porn theater falls in love with the woman who runs the theater's bookshop. That story represents the best work of a fast-developing talent, in a collection well stocked with impressive stylistic snapshots.