Review: Merciless Gods by Christos Tsiolkas


Title: Merciless Gods

Author: Christos Tsiolkas

Published: Allen & Unwin AU November 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from November 19 to 20, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Best known for his most recent novels, The Slap and Barracuda, Merciless Gods is Christos Tsiolkas’s first published collection of short stories.

The themes of many of the stories in this collection are strongly connected to Christos’s life experiences as a gay man and as the son of (Greek) immigrant parents. Yet they also explore the universal trials of friendship, family relations, love, aging and death.

It is sometimes difficult to see past some of the cruder scenes and language in his stories, which are often unapologetically provocative, brutal and seething, yet it is important to note they are also rarely entirely devoid of tenderness, beauty or humour. I found several stories absolutely compelling including the titular ‘Merciless Gods’, ‘Saturn Return’ and ‘Sticks, Stones’ but ‘Porn 1’, ‘Porn 2’ and ‘Porn 3’ were a bit much for me.

One of the reasons I rarely read short stories is that narrative is often neglected in favour of theme, but that is not the case here. I admire the way in which Tsioklas constructs his stories, creating a complete narrative, with strong characters, in just a few pages.

Not everyone will appreciate, nor stomach, Merciless Gods, it is a collection that seems designed to challenge and shock, but for those readers willing to approach the stories with an open mind, there are rewards to be had.

Available to purchase from

Allen & Unwin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.


See also:



3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Deborah
    Dec 02, 2014 @ 23:52:15

    I really struggled with this. I found myself at the end of each story thinking…. “So?” I think I just more to happen… If that makes sense.



  2. Louise Allan
    Dec 05, 2014 @ 14:56:38

    I heard Tsolkias talking with Margaret Throsby on ABC Classic FM and he spoke about this collection. Some of the stories were written ten years’ ago, he said, and he’s changed since then. He sounds so mild-mannered in this interview and others that I’ve heard, and it’s hard to assimilate the two sides of him! The interview is worth listening to—you can get it on podcast from the Classic FM website under Midday Interview.



  3. Trackback: Review: Merciless Gods | Giraffe Days

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