Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ride the Moon - M.L.D. Curelas

Ride the Moon is the first publication of Canadian publisher Tyche Books. It appeared on the last day of February but due to my extremely low productivity, I have only finished reading it last night. In their own words they "crave innovative stories that push the boundaries of our imaginations."  Ride the Moon certainly shows that ambition. It is a collection of stories with the moon as the theme of the stories and ranges from the horrific to the fantastic, from historical to post apocalyptic and from the mythological to the surreal. It certainly tries to live up to the publisher's mission statement but the editor is taking a risk with such a wide spread too. Even for a reader with an appreciation for several genres, not all these stories will be winners. It is an anthology that will stretch the limits of your literary comfort zone.

The anthology contains nineteen stories by authors from all over the English speaking world, although most of them are Canadian. I've read work by exactly none of the authors included, so I went into this anthology not knowing what to expect. Nineteen stories is a bit too much for me to discuss them individually, so I've picked a few I liked in particular.

The first story I want to discuss is The Dowser by Kevin Cockle. In a way it contains a lot of elements in one story that other stories zoom in on. The story doesn't mention a date specifically but I got the impression it is set in a future some decades from now, when a scarcity of oil is making itself felt. The main character, a man with an almost supernatural talent for finding oil deposits where technology delivers inconclusive measurements, is being lead to an ancient mystery. Oil deposits as a a trail of breadcrumbs leading to an Aztec deity. I thought this story fused the modern oil scarcity and environmenental concerns with the Aztec mythology very well.

Moon Dream by Rebecca M. Senese is quite a different story. This one too, is set in the future but one where economic collapse has lead to an end of all hopes of conquering space, people have more immediate concerns than sinking resources into developing spaceflight. Not everybody is ready to give up on the dream of walking on the moon however. Julia Threswald is determined to travel there one day, and if no space agency can help her, she will get there herself. There is a kind of Clarkean optimism to this story. The main character has a firm grasp of physics and although the author does not put as much emphasis on the technical side as Clarke would have done, there is the firm belief that there is a technical solution to this problem. A fine piece of science fiction.

On the Labrador Shore, She Waits by Krista D. Ball is a piece of historical fiction based on archaeological finds near L’Anse Amour in Labrador, Canada. The burial site contained the body of an adolescent, obviously buried with great care 7,500 years ago. One theory is that it was a sacrifice made to ensure the survival of the people in times of hardship. Ball spins a tale of pride, sacrifice and love around the archaeological evidence. It brings the hardships of living in such a challenging environment very close. It is always hard to make the reader feel why a character would see human sacrifice as the only way out in such a situation but in this story Ball pulls it off. It combines an emotionally powerful story with enough historical detail to make me do a search on the actual burial site.

Small Seven's Secret by Billie Millholland could be considered a historical piece as well but this time with a distinct Steampunk flavor to it. A Chinese scientist tries to harness the power of the moon to create a link between the Chinese Dowager Empress Cixi and the ruler of the British Empire Queen Victoria. To do it, he needs the cooperation of the untrained Zhang sisters, three of whom perish in the attempt. The seventh sister is not about to allow more of her siblings to be lost to the ambitions of the scientists. It's an intoxicating blend of magic and technology. Like a lot of good short fiction, the story leaves the reader with the idea that it could very well have been the core of a longer work.

One of the stories that leans more towards horror is Husks by Isabella Drzemczewska Hodson. One of the things the moon is often associated with is creatures of the night and this story contains a disturbing pair of those. A brother and sister grow up in an orphanage. They are a peculiar pair but nobody pays much attention to them, except for April, one of the women taking care of them. The plot itself is fairly predictable but it is such a beautifully written story that I had to include a few comments on it in this review. The omniscient narrator manages to convey both the strangeness of the pair, as well as the urges that lead to the inevitable conclusion of the story. It's written in the present tense with beautifully flowing prose. Stylistically, this story clearly stands out in the anthology.

Although not all stories worked equally well for me, there is plenty to enjoy in this anthology. Variety is the word here, I think there is something for is everybody. The e-book version I've read is professionally edited and apart from a few mistakes in the page numbers it was remarkably clean as e-books go. It is always nice to see a publisher take care with the e-book edition of their books. If this is the standard Tyche Books means to keep itself to, I think we'll see some very interesting publications from them in years to come. With Ride the Moon they have certainly added a few names to my list of authors to keep an eye on.

Book Details
Title: Ride the Moon
Author: M.D.L. Curelas
Publisher: Tyche Books
Pages: 268
Year: 2012
Language: English
Format: E-books
ISBN: 978-0-9878248-1-3
First published: 2012

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