Monday, June 3, 2013

OBLIQUITY


Review of OBLIQUITY edited by PAUL HANSON

This collection perfectly illustrates the term “speculative fiction.” There’s fantasy, science fiction, and the plain weird, strange, and bizarre.

The first story, “Lodestone” by the editor Paul Hanson (Full disclosure: Paul and I work together.) meshes recognizable tropes and unusual twists on an orphan’s strange, magical journey. The distinct voice implies an older person looking back at youth and the whole story has a tip of the iceberg feeling like there’s still plenty unsaid about these characters and circumstances.

“The Asylum” by Patricia Lewis also made quite an impression on me. Though the core premise isn’t entirely new, the story’s well paced with a nicely timed revelation and the characters flesh out a familiar theme with more depth. I did take issue with a certain subtext, but enjoyed the story nonetheless, especially since it opens doors for discussion.

My favorite story probably has to be “Tabit’s Odyssey” by Christine Wyatt. It’s wonderfully weird. That word “weird” has a negative connotation, but I mean it as the highest of compliments in this case! I admire the author, since “Tabit’s Odyssey” strikes me as the kind of story that would fall to pieces with the smallest slip-up in pacing.

I enjoyed “J” by Bill Branley as well. The magic premise feels familiar but intriguingly odd and mysterious. Branley keeps the story character-focused and builds to a punch of an ending.

“Redo” by Nick Heinlein doesn’t seem terribly special or new until you reach an ending that makes your investment worth your time. In this case, “Redo” hits the reader with a hilarious one-liner (Out of context: “They had been robbed.”) while still retaining understated strands of the emotional, more serious implications.

“Genesis at Raradon” by Lorenz Eber brilliantly exemplifies what I look for in a short story. Both the world and the characters feel well developed and Eber supplies information as needed without under- or over- dosing the reader with details. Climatic events impacted me even though I had met these characters only pages ago and Eber ties it all up with a great twist of an ending. That’s all within about 14 pages, too!

My only complaint applies to a few works here, but really can often be said about short stories in general: some simply feel too short, either underdeveloped or wonderfully developed but stuffed into a cramped word count. I always admire well-executed short stories, but frequently encounter ones that feel like they’re only starting as they come to a close.

All in all, an eclectic collection of stories showcasing the variety of styles, premises, and approaches found within this term “speculative fiction.” The note in the back of the book about the winged salamander of the cover also deserves your attention!

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