Showing posts from 2014

"You take up a summer job and trip into a conspiracy"

Eliza Victoria has consumed me wholly this year though our love affair as authoress and admirer has been, on some occasions, an infrequent and most unsure relationship, but I take comfort in the private knowledge that our rendezvous point will always be located within the rich tapestry of  her stories. The gift of her prose and imagination has revitalized the way I look at certain areas in my life, and I'd like to believe that she is my own Neil Gaiman, since I'm aware that Gaiman is a lot to his fans simply magical, and Victoria is the same for me as well.

This is the third work of hers that I read and reviewed for this year and it's a science fiction novella that had a lot of promising potentials to become a full-length novel if Victoria ever decides to pick this up again and go in that direction someday because I believe it's not too late, and I know a lot of readers share this opinion. I also believe that some of them might criticize this novella's brevity, part…

"Just Orsk us!" says the beehive worker

Since earlier this year, I have enjoyed and consumed a strange quantity of downloaded horror game walkthroughs from YouTube vidders who post their gameplays online for the general masses of people who can't afford or have the time and commitment to play such games, but are nonetheless interested enough to submerge themselves in another person's virtual world that are mostly filled with deaths, macabre and creepy backstories. I've enjoyed gameplays for Alice: Madness Returns, two Outlast games, five Silent Hill games, Among the Sleep, Slender Man the Arrival, and other delightful array of indie horror games. The reason I bring this up in a book review is because Grady Hendrix's novel HORRORSTOR is amusingly reminiscent of this type of games in the most disturbing way imaginable in prose form and that is why reading its content was hypnotic and spooky in a very visceral level.

This is the most appealing aspect about Horrorstor for me: Hendrix's precise and lush prose …

"Build replicas for your kingdom and pack for the moon"

Just like with Eliza Victoria, I encountered Dean Francis Alfar with his story Strange Weather in the Philippine fantasy anthology The Farthest Shore which was also a collection he edited himself. One day, I was browsing through the shelves in my local bookstore when I came across this collection and I was very interested already at this point especially since the title has 'terra incognita' in it, which has been the name of my column in my college paper back when I was the literary editor, and I also kept that same title when I became the associate editor.

By definition, 'terra incognita' is a Latin phrase that means "uncharted territory" which was used in cartography to describe regions or lands that have not been or have yet to be documented on maps and geography. I decided to use it because my aim was to touch upon certain topics that have not been discussed before, mostly of the whimsical variety. I thought that such a phrase would be the most appropriate…

"Dancing with a poem humming in your head"

There was one night when a man came in and bought a bottle of storm clouds. He claimed to be a poet. "I needed the rain," he said. "I couldn't write in this goddamn heat."
"What did he pay for that?" I asked.
"That's just a week's supply of storm clouds," Ana said, "so I only asked for six months of his life. I'm going to use that for my sunflowers. That way, they wouldn't wait for a long time--isn't that fantastic?"
I hoped the man wrote good poems.
Loss, I believe, is a theme in fiction that's difficult to capture resonantly in prose but authoress Eliza Victoria's anthology was essentially able to bottle it in a condensed volume that features sixteen tales ranging from horror, science fiction and fantasy. Curiously entitled A Bottle of Storm Clouds, the thematic bulk of Victoria's short stories is usually about losses and the dangerous and often pitiful coping mechanisms creatures of brevity such a…

"I am no bird. No net can ensare me"

Unlike the titular heroine herself, I would much rather be DIGNIFIED than HAPPY. I have that much pride and entitlement, and I admit openly that my autonomy and self-reliance were the most useful tools that kept me ever so hard and strong that you cannot break me--especially my heart which only cracks in some places but can be readily restored, more fierce than before. Reading this novel and Jane's story with her Mr. Rochester has brought me sheer, reckless joy and yet at times the deepest of sorrows as well.

They say the most unforgettable books we've read serve as a looking-glass where all our fears and desires are reflected back to us and we dare not flinch away from. Well, I gazed into Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and saw again the first person I was ever in love with. The girl I loved with passion was simply called Lei who was only thirteen when we met while I was five years her senior. She was my Jane and I was her Rochester...and she was the only one in the world w…

"Beyond the stars"

The last installment for the Stranger Fiction anthology trilogy is composed of fifteen stories on the genre of speculative science fiction and this is a collection that is personally the most polarizing of the three. I'm fairly new to sci-fi myself since I only started actively reading from it two years ago but I know enough to both enjoy and criticize a literary work in this genre. Unlike the horror and fantasy collections that I previously read(Demons of the New Year and The Farthest Shore respectively), Diaspora Ad Astra has been quite dissonant in scope especially since I don't think a lot of Filipino authors write sci-fi and there isn't exactly a market or demographic in my country that also reads, let alone celebrates, this genre.

As stated in the Foreword of this book, Filipinos don't exactly have our eyes set on the stars or any futuristic landscape when it comes to our fiction as well as in our lives and priorities in general. We are a culture steeped in supe…

"Radiant against colossal dark"

"...a privilege of the haunted, radiant against colossal dark. Loud as can be."I only knew Karl R. De Mesa because he was the lead editor for the Filipino horror fiction anthology from the Strange Series trilogy, Demons of the New Year. This is the first time I have ever read a fiction work of his though I've seen two of his collected essays in the shelves of the nearest bookstore from where I work. I've already been captivated by a certain Filipina fictionist (Eliza Victoria) since last month, and I figured that I could still make room for one more, especially since De Mesa has a very intriguing literary background (he works as a journalist and is also a musician), and seems to share my passion and almost scholastic interest for tarot card-reading. This collection of his is composed of four novellas, each mind-boggling and intricately written, all of them somehow interrelated with one another.

The first noticeable thing about De Mesa's prose is that it more than…

"We are doomed because we are connected"

I first encountered Eliza Victoria in her short story submission for the Filipino horror anthology Demons of the New Year entitled Salot and it was a piece that stayed with me because of its ambiguous ending and fascinating characters whom I wished she expounded on some more. Heck, I even personally tweeted her one time and asked if there is a sequel because I couldn't get enough of it and she responded that there was no more that she could offer me. I was heartbroken but it also ignited my interest further so I ventured on to discover more of her fiction.

She once again dazzled me for her submission in Alternative Alamat entitled Ana’s Little Pawnshop on Makiling St., and eluded me for her submission in the fantasy anthology The Farthest Shore entitled The Just World of Helena Jimenez which I had to read twice to fully understand.

So, as you can see, my first impressions of the work of this authoress have been quite intoxicating. Now you can just imagine my glee once I was able …

"Upon new landscapes and escapades"

Published by the University of the Philipppines Press, the Strange Fiction series is a trilogy composing of anthologies on the horror, fantasy and science fiction genres. I finished the horror anthology entitled Demons of the New Year last month and it was an absolute favorite volume of mine. For this fantasy collection composed of twelve stories, there are so many imaginative and intriguing worlds here that I found myself very fortunate enough to explore; while there are a few others that I just couldn't connect with in a deeper level. Still, what each writer brought to the table is commendable; their lush descriptions of landscapes, characters and themes truly gave life to the pages they were written in.

Edited by Dean Francis Alfar and Joseph Frederic F. Nacino who are actually certified speculative fiction authors themselves, The Fathest Shore is a hefty exploration of mythical and fantastical stories that can be distinctly Filipino or generally otherwordly. The stories that f…

"The gods are futile guests of literature"

"Sometimes I feel like there's a tendency--even amongst Filipinos--to view the Philippines as a footnote on the world stage. Yet there's so much that is unique and beautiful in Philippine culture, if only we would take the time to learn it. Philippine mythology has much to offer the world. This anthology, we hope, has opened a doorway. We invite you to step through it." ~Paolo ChikiamcoThis is an anthology that has made me even prouder of my cultural roots, particularly when it comes to a Filipino's ability and capacity for myth-making, and the eleven short stories (plus a supplement comic story) that comprise this volume are testaments to that quality. I absolutely love it when a book manages to not only pleasantly surprise me but also cast a spell on me while reading it and Alternative Alamat knows exactly how to weave magic in the prose of each story and how best to wield its power to entice and hypnotize anyone who reads it.

Each story in this collection is a…

"We live in a haunted world"

I used to be the literary editor for my college paper about three years ago, and I decided that the literary folio's theme is going to be about our fear and fascination of monsters. I maintain that the monsters that plague our lives are mostly products of self-creation; a mere metaphor for our tortured or unsatisfying way of life. In that collection, the stories also got to feature literal monsters, ones that fuel nightmares and hunt us, demanding for blood. I mention this here because it's definitely the reason why this particular anthology published by the UP Press has intrigued me to no end.

Demons of the New Year had a lot of amazing things going for it. Firstly, it's a horror fiction from my country the Philippines which is already a readily commendable trait, seeing as I've always believed that we have some of the most enticing paranormal lore out there as well as perplexing and creepy superstitions deeply rooted in our collective national consciousness. This ant…

"How easy for a mask to be a blindfold"

I'm going to level with you now: you must pick this up one of these days and read it. You'll be glad you did. I spent about a week reading and reviewing each issue included for this stellar graphic novel written by the current Batman writer for New 52, Scott Snyder, and illustrated by artists Jock and Francesco Francavilla alternatively. Comprised of ten issues from Detective Comics #871-881 from the old DC continuity, The Black Mirror is set right after Bruce Wayne's supposed death and so, in his absence, the role of Gotham's Dark Knight was filled in by no other than Dick Grayson, the first Robin. Though it's not Wayne underneath the cowl, Dick as Batman is definitely a daring and compelling one.

In Snyder's stories about him being Batman and as illustrated by Jock, Dick faces questions similar to a person who is having an identity crisis, particularly on the aspect of his roots. Though intimately familiar with Gotham's horrific landscapes and feels perso…

"Hoping is what kept most men from living"

Considering this is a Richard Matheson book, an author who is probably best known for his horror stories, I have initial expectations that this was going to be a scary venture in the same manner as Hell House was when I saw the movie as a child and later on read the book. But in the first fifty pages or so of this novel, my expectations were met in a different way yet it was also something more satisfying which could be what Matheson has intended when he wrote it.

The Shrinking Man tells the story of Scott Carey who was one day sprayed with a radioactive chemical by accident, and found himself physically shrinking since. The novel perfectly opens with a very terrifying description of Scott being chased down by a spider. At first glance, this book seems to be a very simplistic survivalist story about one man's struggle to endure a hopeless circumstance--but the existential horror that is the overall thematic scope of the plot is definitely its most intriguing aspect. This could al…

"To fallen heroes who fight for another day"

In every list of the greatest Batman stories ever written, this is always on top of the pile (rivaled once in a while by his other work, Year One, if not followed closely by Alan Moore's The Killing Joke). Naturally, I was excited to start reading this although I cheated on myself a little because I did watch its animation adaptation last year. But having the chance to read the source material myself, I started to understand why this was such an important work when it was released about the same time Watchmen was in the late eighties. I was unfortunate enough to be born in the nineties so I wasn't there to see firsthand how Batman's narrative evolved in the comics and I was quite envious of those who were there to witness what Frank Miller accomplished when he wrote The Dark Knight Returns; considering how much of its impact still echoes in the modern interpretations of Batman and his villains to this very day.

Still, that also means that I can view this piece of literatu…