When I found Joshua Graham’s novella The Accidental Exorcist (2013, Joshua Graham) on Amazon.com I felt compelled to read it. The subject of possession has intrigued me since high school when I read William Peter Blatty’s novel The Exorcist (1971, William Peter Blatty) for the first time. (I slept with the lights and the closet doors open for a week—my parents were so ticked off.) [Read more…]
I picked up Interlands: A Tale of the Supernatural, by Vincent O’Neil (2013, Vincent O-Neil), while searching on Amazon.com through its abundant selection of Kindle eBooks. When I learned that Interlands takes place in Providence, Rhode Island, I had to read the book for two purely selfish reasons. For one, a large part of my family lives in the state (I feel the connection to place), and two, the synopsis screams of Lovecraft.
Angie Morse, a graduate student of history at a Providence college, is trying to make a name for herself. She’s finished her coursework, but she’s looking for that one special find that will get the attention of billionaire historian Oliver Price, who funds experts like her to explore the world in search of the existence of lost places and forgotten lore. For such a treasured position, Angie will risk anything. Using an old photograph, historic documentation, and local folklore, Angie explores the area around Providence in search of an ancient obelisk once worshiped by early settlers, feared by Native Americans, and ultimately destroyed by the authorities. The folklore about the obelisk is unsettling, perhaps even satanic, but it’s the find she needs to get Price’s attention. Along the way, Angie discovers the obelisk may have modern worshipers—friends and acquaintances whose motives are deceitful. As she slowly unravels the mystery surrounding the obelisk, we learn the truth—all that we can know—about its history and its worshipers.
The book has multiple strengths, but O’Neil’s ability to develop credible characters is the best. I found myself emotionally connected with Angie; In her quest for the obelisk, she is often alone in the woods, at home, at the library, or in public. The descriptions of Providence and the surrounding woods and in Angie’s movements are so superb that I feel her fear, her dread, her sorrow, her confusion, and her anger as she desperately searches for the obelisk. I want her to succeed on many levels. O’Neil’s other characters are just as strong—the neighbor, who looks out for Angie, and who once experienced something strange in the woods, too; The former roommate who we learn about through Angie’s thoughts and memories, and later, in a phone call; The research assistant, who appears to want more than just a work relationship with Angie, but who also seems like he might be working against her; Her therapist, who went mad while looking out his window, and who might have been her lover; and her many encounters with local folks and somewhat creepy acquaintances in her search for the obelisk.
The story starts out a little slow, but it’s engaging from the start—another plus for O’Neil. Angie is on her way to the woods in search of the obelisk, thinking about finishing her master’s degree and the possibility of working for Oliver Price,while she considers the evidence she’s collected. Strong Lovecraftian themes are present throughout the story, most notably cosmicism, and in the end, a few unanswered questions. Lovecraft fans won’t be disappointed. I found the book to be so engaging that I stopped everything and read it from start to finish in one day. I really enjoyed it. Lovecraftians, fans of the supernatural, and readers who like solving puzzles should read Interlands: A Tale of the Supernatural. You won’t be disappointed.
INTERLANDS: A TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL
By Vincent O’Neil
CreateSpace, 226 pp., $8.99
The higher than average customer book reviews on Amazon.com enticed me to read R. A Scrittore’s Short Order – A Collection of Speculative Fiction and Science Fiction Short Stories. Scrittore is the author of several short stories that have been featured on the critically acclaimed Polka Scene ‘Zine and Fanstory.com. The short story anthology is Scrittore’s first. One story in the anthology—”The Greater Plan”—was nominated for Story of the Month in June 2010. A shorter work, A Disturbing Balance, was published in July 2012.
Two of the five short stories in Short Order are most definitely science fiction while the other three stories speculate on what if. In all five stories, the protagonist is male, and in at least two of the stories, the protagonist is gay. Scrittore’s well-developed characters rule each story while a solid plot slowly unfolds. A major theme among the works is that of internal struggle about the personal choices each protagonist makes in the face of conflict.
“End Product” shows us the consequences of bullying. Sammy, a tormented schoolboy, constantly lives in fear and angst. He’s bullied routinely by Mike, Todd, and their gang to the extent that he plans his day by charting routes to avoid them. On his way to school one day, Sammy, who thinks he has avoided Mike, suddenly finds himself trailing behind him. Sammy lags behind just enough to keep his eye on Mike while remaining unseen. A black car pulls up out of nowhere and ultimately kidnaps Mike. When questioned by the police later, Sammy tells them that he hasn’t seen Mike. Through Sammy’s thoughts, we learn that Mike is never seen again, and Sammy grows up, has a family, and doesn’t feel guilty about his decision.
“Bait and Switch” illustrates Scrittore’s remarkable ability to lure us in deep, keep us engaged, and then surprise us with an unexpected outcome. In this tale, Tom Munsini, a peace officer assigned to the Bordean station, falls prey to a premeditated crime. Tom is lured to his death by a fragile old man, who tricks him into checking out his place after finding the front door unlocked. The old man poisons Tom so that a gangster can assume his body and his identity. When Tom’s body begins to die, the Bordean inside emerges, and claims one of his kidnappers as his new host.
“Bitter Reproach” tells the story of James, who, out of shame and guilt, can’t admit to his inner circle that he’s gay. An alchemist, who claims to have the same tormenting desires as James, unexpectedly approaches James. The alchemist offers the tormented James a deal—work together using black magic, or alchemy, to persuade others to help the two of them satisfy their lust. James cannot succumb to such deceit and rejects the offer. Later, James tells a good friend about the whole ordeal in the hopes of receiving advice. Instead, he is abandoned when the friend believes James to be under a spell of the alchemist.
In “The Gift”, Simon, who is grief stricken over the loss of his partner, has stopped living. He rarely meets with friends, and he stops playing the piano—a gift his partner thought was beautiful. When he’s not working, Simon spends his time at home in solitude while imagining and talking to his dead partner. He hesitates when his new neighbors befriend him, especially the son, who is a musical prodigy. After spending time helping the teen hone his piano skills, Simon realizes that teaching is his real gift. He talks to his partner about his discovery, and he is reborn. His partner no longer appears, and Simon tries to recoup his lost friendships and his life.
“The Greater Plan” shows the agonizing struggle of Quintin, a Jageek, who finds himself under human rule after the colonization of his planet by a renegade Earth corporation named Omnipres. Slaves to the humans, a group of Jageek’s plan a coup to overthrow their human masters. Quintin, who is torn between his faith in the Creator and the prospect of overthrowing humans, ultimately chooses to put his fate in the hands of the Creator. When the humans begin to die, Quintin believes it is because of divine intervention, and he begins to challenge his new master. His happiness is soon destroyed as he learns that a vaccination has cured the udge, the disease that threatens both humans and Jageeks. His master, who will not tolerate Quintin’s behavior, has him put to death.
Scrittore’s strength is in well-developed characters, plot, and scene. His characters are life-like, familiar, and believable. The mannerisms, habits, and dialogue of these characters are exceptional. These characters struggle with choices and decisions that ultimately change their future, sometimes for the worse. The plots are solid and unpredictable, often revealing a surprise outcome. While I enjoyed reading every story in the anthology, I have one criticism about the way Scrittore ends each tale. After the plot is revealed, the stories just end, with the character doing or uttering something or another that I just didn’t get.
Overall, Short Order – A Collection of Speculative Fiction and Science Fiction Short Stories, is definitely a worthy read of works by an author, who, I suspect has a future in writing. If anything, Scrittore’s anthology is a good lesson in character and plot development. For sure, I will read his other work, A Disturbing Balance.‘
SHORT ORDER – A COLLECTION OF SPECULATIVE FICTION AND SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORIES
By R. A. Scrittore
Amazon Digital Services, 80 pp., $0.99