Book review: The Unitary Authority of Ersatz, by Richard Sutherland

you’ve ever wanted to browse the ‘something a little bit different and unusual’
section of Waterstone’s, but can’t because it doesn’t exist, you’ll probably
find the only place it would likely do so would be in The Unitary Authority of
Ersatz; that is, in a rough translation of regular words, The Independent City
of Strange, which is precisely what Hull is, minus the strange bit, sometimes.

This collection of short stories comes as a debut
book from independent author and publisher, Richard Sutherland, who was a
student at this very university somewhere between a few and some years ago.

Always being a bit wary of short stories, I’d
never given them a chance before, but after a much needed break from essays and
revision I wondered why I’d previously disregarded them so quickly, being the
perfect short break from the mountain of work everyone has suffered from

The short stories you’ll find in The Unitary
Authority of Ersatz sit alongside poems of all descriptions and even a short
play. Some are filled with characters we can all immediately relate to, such as
‘Sanders, a fella, late 20s and Bednarski, a bloke, late 20s’, and some we may
not immediately be able to, for example: Equilateral, of the triangle family –
‘a pompous ass intent on starting arguments, then demonstrating how his three
standpoints – intellectual, emotional and moral – are in perfect harmony with
each other’, (three very pretentious sides according to a co-character), as
well as Sin Cos Tan, the Oriental guest at Maths Manor.

There is one element to this book that cannot be
doubted, and that is the amount of creativity and thought that has gone into it
along its self-published journey. Aspects like these would normally reside
within the inner pages of other books, but with The Unitary Authority of Ersatz
even the back cover isn’t an obstacle to imagination with its comical safety
reading advice from the author, who also happens to be the illustrator.

Snippets of poems and stories can be found making
their way across Facebook, Twitter and, but for
traditional print here’s one taken from Poem 3: ‘I Hate Comic Sans’:

“You act Alpha Male when followed by the herd,
but remember you’re free with Microsoft word.
You think people love you but of this I am sure:
they just know that you’re cheap, you font package

Although The Unitary Authority of Ersatz is a
wonderful creation of words, illustrations and imagination, the world that is
Ersatz has gone far beyond the boundaries of the book’s covers. Ersatz is now a
fully-fledged online authority, keen to talk to all residents of the new-found,
bizarre community.

Another community the author is keen to be a part
of, however, is Shadow Forest Authors, a charity which asks for a free copy of
contributing author’s books to send to places they are urgently needed, to help
combat the literacy crisis in third world countries.

The Unitary Authority of Ersatz by Richard
Sutherland can be purchased for £7.99 from Amazon, Waterstone’s bookshops and
their online store, and directly from the author if you’re keen on a bit of
free postage at,
which also has a blog, photos, humorous poetry and a webcomic, and where you
will discover that ‘Foodstuff Golem is King’. And who knows, perhaps you’ll be
the next person to find that elusive Banana Penguin?


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