Kergan Edwards-Stout has complied a collection of fourteen short stories all centered around different holidays. Yet, these stories are not about holidays, but about turning points in character’s lives, where the emotions and magic of the holidays push these characters past those turning points. These are tales of personal awakenings, where dreams are achieved, hope is found, life is cherished. Many are touching, others sad.
Like all short-story anthologies, I found this work a bit of a mixed bag, connecting with some stories, some characters, and not others. I felt the author’s talent shown brightest with Glenbourne, Il, where a woman, Sarah, struggles to gain acceptance from her in-laws. And in The Old Rugged Cross where a mother leaves her home in Alabama to be near her son in L.A. I found these characters genuine, and their stories thought provoking.
The author’s prose is well-paced and beautifully written, yet I often felt there was simply too much telling, as apposed to showing, and I also found the author’s habit of head-hopping a bit distracting. As much as I enjoyed each of these stories, I feel that this collection does not live up to the promise that this talented author exhibited so eloquently in his first novel, Songs For The New Depression. Still, this anthology is a worthwhile read. (Reviewed by Alan Chin)
THE QUEERLING by Austin Gary Publisher: Deckle Press (2013) Pages: 256 Preston Nesbitt became the star of a controversial YouTube video gone viral, yet because he has no memory of participating in the video, he’s been confined to a Portland, Oregon mental hospital. Preston is a precocious, eccentric, sixteen year old, who has the ability to diagnose everybody’s psychological condition but his own. The story is told through Preston’s journal entries, where he hopes to convince his doctor and parents that he is not delusional.
Through Preston’s writings, the reader finds that he is a savant with a rare form of Asperger’s, who rails against society’s wrongs. Much of this story seems like Holden Caulfield meets One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, yet it has a delightful turn of events that leads to a reality-bending conclusion.
This enchanting tale introduces one of the most complex, interesting, and amusing characters I’ve read in years. Preston Nesbitt, as a fictional character, is nothing short of brilliant. He is cocky, irritating, too clever, egotistical and rude, yet he touches your heart. He blends humor, deep-set emotions, and unique insights to conjure up a mesmerizing read. While telling his own inner conflicts, Preston lays out the backstory of his dysfunctional parents, and also showcases the pack of memorable misfit peers who are also on his mental ward. The author uses contrast, Preston against the other characters, to brilliantly show the protagonist’s virtues. This esoteric novel is a captivating delight, first page to last. Funny, thought-provoking, unnerving. Bravo. (Reviewed by Alan Chin)
Book description: Thanson Nez thought his career as a Discretionary would take him to the stars, not strand him on a space station. Thanks to his last client, he’s carrying a secret he can’t get rid of fast enough. Already desperate for help, he runs into yet more trouble: his ex, and an explosion that paralyzes the station moments after their uncomfortable reunion.
Kazra Ferdow, Station 43’s communications officer, is almost as blindsided by the return of his first love as he is by the sudden loss of power and life support. The station is a floating graveyard in the making, and something is turning its inhabitants into savage killers. Fighting human monsters and damaged tech, Kazra and Thanson must put aside their past long enough to try to save everyone.
It’s a familiar tale of secrets on a stranded space station. I found the storytelling rather dry and matter of fact. I don’t feel the need to warn you off the story but it was not one of my favorites. (Reviewed by Donna Keihle)
Book description: Dante and Byron are avatars. Driven by human beings, yet still only digital representations of their ideal selves. In reality, they live far apart, but share most of their waking and working hours together in a virtual world called Synth.
In Synth, like in most code, the laws are infinitely more simple and infinitely more complex. Navigating the system rules of virtual lovers is like steering through a minefield of deceit, suspicion, heartbreak, and half-truths.
Under pressure, Dante makes a friendship that trips Byron’s warning bells, disrupting their carefully-ordered lives and calling into question the wisdom of trusting your heart to a man you can never touch in the flesh.
This is one of the most unique stories I’ve read. In very few pages the author brings us on the emotional journey of three individuals who find that even in a virtual world we can’t escape who we are.
This is a must read. (Reviewed by Donna Keihle)
Book description: Sniper Sergeant Marc Staille and his trusty rifle, Mat, are on bodyguard duty at a mining operation on a backwater planet. The resource-rich valley is crawling with tawnies, the native dirt-colored predators that hunt in packs and kill as well with tooth and claw as Marc ever has with Mat.
Commander Hamm Orsonna, leader of the fefa clan, is determined to chase off the invading aliens by capturing one for Intel with an unexpected weapon: pheromones.
This is a story about relationships, about accepting individuals for who they are not what they are.
In the beginning the closest relationship Marc has is with his rifle. Once captured, we watch the relationship between Marc and Hamm develop. Initially with the expected emotions of anger, distrust, fear but something else, something unexpected – lust. As things change between Marc and Hamm it triggers tension between Hamm and his clan. Leadership is challenged.
The pacing kept me turning pages, and the characters drew me into the story. I recommend this book. (Reviewed by Donna Keihle)