Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"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 for me illustrated captivating and vivid tales are Alfar's Strange Weather whose lyrical prose is both hard-edged and tender in scope, demonstrating the author's great command of language and symbolism; Nikki Alfar's Emberwild which tackles the indulgences and ills of societies, particularly how women have to be in servitude of such bad habits; the uncomfortably piercing satirical piece by Eliza Victora entitled The Just World of Helena Jimenez which readers need to pay close attention to in order to fully enjoy the story (As a growing fan of Victoria's work, I was surprised by this piece's verbosity which is so unlike her usual style, yet ultimately it worked wonders for the story).

Finally, my most favorite piece has to be Light by Kate Aton-Osias which stayed in my mind for days because of the potent nature of its prose. It's about anthropomorphic beings in league of Neil Gaiman's character Dream from The Sandman, and the whole thing definitely leaves readers wanting for sequels. It's simply one of those short stories that warrants an expansion, possibly into a full-length novel. It was that intriguing and multi-dimensional. 

Notable stories that I enjoyed are Queen Liwana's Gambit Rodello Santos (which was an amusing take on making deals with devils); the feminist deconstruction of a fairy-tale-like story, They Spoke of Her in Whispers by Bessie Lasala and Vincent Simbulan's poignant In the Arms of Beishu. Unfortunately, I found it often difficult to fully engage with the rest of the stories (such as Crystal Koo's Wildwater and Rite of Passage by Dominique Cimafranca, whose brevities felt slightly anticlimactic; and the equally confounding stories, Spelling Normal by Mia Tijam and J.F Nacino's Brothers in Arms). I would admit that though Siege of Silence by Paolo Chikiamco had a daring premise, my interest started to dwindle as the story progressed which is a shame because I did want to enjoy this story but certain details just take me out of it.

Although the last batch of stories received quite a lukewarm response from me, they may be your cup of tea so you might as well check them out as well. But I assert that Strange Weather, Light, Emberwild, and The Just World of Helena Jimenez for me are the best that the anthology has offered. Now I'm pretty excited to read the last volume of the Strange Series trilogy which covers science fiction written by Filipinos.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10
Crafted with a variety of purposeful and mediative literary styles, each story featured in The Father Shore is delightful and sublime in their own special way.

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