I DREAM OF MIRRORS | Book review by weird fantasy & speculative fiction author Ted Fauster

I DREAM OF MIRRORS
by Chris Kelso

A book review by weird fantasy & speculative fiction author Ted Fauster

Why do mirrors exist?

I DREAM OF MIRRORS is the kind of novella best consumed with a picnic basket full of pharmaceuticals. Since this is both dangerous and illegal, I offer instead a comfy chair and a roaring fire. Perhaps a cold beer and a hammock? Cup of coffee and an Autumnal porch swing?

Doesn’t really matter. This is your dream, pal.

Kelso’s dream begins like your typical zombie apocalypse, with two heroes (Kurt and Kad) fighting off a mob of zombies as they race back through a desolate city with a bagful of fresh supplies toward the luxury apartment in which they’ve been squatting. Then everything goes full banana-nut-cake fucking weird.

The “city” has been taken over by one Miles Dunwoody, a charismatic cult leader type drawing everyone inexorably toward him with the promise of redemption and rescue from some unknown force that is coming to get you. Seems fairly straightforward. Once our duo reaches the safety of their honeymoon suite, however, the icing on the cake becomes smeared.

Kelso is cut from the same cloth as Burroughs, whose influence on this novella stands out in bold type. There’s even a bit of the cut-up process in here that makes it feel as if some scenes have been intentionally shuffled together then rapidly dealt blind. At times, you will feel like you are losing your grip on what you’re reading, which in my opinion is where this little book masterfully shines.

Much of the language is rich and poetic, a long burbling dream sequence full of misguided attempts at introspection, fear and self-doubt. (I kept imagining Jude Law as our humble narrator.) We see this weird world through the eyes of an unreliable narrator, and we don’t care. We know he’s disillusioned and lost and we love it!

Why is he here? Why does he exist? Is it time to throw in the towel and simply commit? To what? To Dunwoody? To a fluxing sense of self? To love?

That’s a whole lotta damn questions, and by the time you’ve finished the book you’ll likely have more.

This is a short read. I usually read very slowly, and I finished this book in just three sittings.

If you’re looking for your typical genre novel take a pass. This won’t make you feel all warm and giggly at the end. In fact, there are several points along the way that are so disturbing they’re difficult to surmount. This book gets dark–very dark.

If, however, you consider yourself a reader with a discerning palate, a connoisseur of the strange and unusual, then you’ve come to the right place. This is my first Kelso read, and I’m going to be snatching up everything else he’s written.

TF

CLAIMING T-MO | A book review by weird fantasy & speculative fiction author Ted Fauster

CLAIMING T-MO
by Eugen Bacon

A book review by weird fantasy & speculative fiction author Ted Fauster

To borrow a phrase from the novel, CLAIMING T-MO is told through the masterfully interwoven “color of language.”

From the dust jacket, you might expect a paranormal sci-fi type of read–elements of which this book certainly contains–but it soon becomes clear this is far more than any typical genre romp.

The eponymous character is the son of a mystical priest and his child bride, and the story orbits around his life. But there is so much more here than meets the eye.

It would have been easy to place the point of view on T-Mo, but he’s not what this book is about. From the very beginning, the character of T-Mo is split, a soul divided by arrogance and love, into two halves: one belonging to his mother, who chose his true name at birth; and the other corrupted by his tyrannical father, who broke with convention by demanding his son be called Odysseus.

Therein lies the true roots of the story. CLAIMING T-MO is really about how evil can seduce the innocent, about how raw power and hubris can damage the psyche, causing that pain to echo and brand generations of women, how foolish choices and unconditional love mix like oil and water. Through it all, numerous lives are damaged. That said, the book sums up very satisfyingly in the only way it can.

Reading this book is like swimming through a dream. The language and conventions used carry the very savory tang of the paranormal, although this is truly a literary novel. At times, I felt like I was floating along like a balloon, enraptured by the tone and choice of words. Bacon is a poet of the highest order.

If this is Bacon’s first novel, I eagerly look forward to her next.

TF

ZERO SAINTS | Book Review by Weird Fantasy & Speculative Fiction Author Ted Fauster

ZERO SAINTS
by Gabino Iglesias

A review by weird fantasy & speculative fiction author Ted Fauster

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Are you sitting down?

You should sit down.

From the very first page, ZERO SAINTS pulls you in. It’s the equivalent of that bad friend you shouldn’t be hanging out with grabbing you by the neck of your t-shirt and yanking you into the passenger seat of a ’71 Lincoln Continental. Before you can so much as buckle up, the tires are squealing and you’re off to the races.

pulls you in. It’s the equivalent of that bad friend you shouldn’t be hanging out with grabbing you by the neck of your shirt and yanking you into the passenger seat of a ’71 Lincoln Continental. Before you can so much as buckle up, the tires are squealing and you’re off to the races.

Let me tell you something about Gabino. He’s one of the most hardworking hustlers out there. This guy eats books and shits poetry. He’s a giant, a god and a legend. He’s also the nicest guy I know who can snap you in two.

Blending Spanglish, Spanish and English, whenever and wherever he wants, Iglesias takes us on a wild ride through a smeared canvas of violence and enchanted terror. There were several downright gut-twisting moments where I almost had to put the book down, including the description of a man’s neck being snapped to one side that will haunt me to the grave. But I deserved it. This book owns that moment. It wants you see, to feel. It wants you to know.

Iglesias’ writing is beyond raw; it’s stripped to the bone and bleeding. It’s another color you can’t see. I’m warning you, you’re gonna lose some fingers and possibly one ear along the way. That’s the price, and you should consider yourself lucky. But the most beautiful aspect of this book is the fantastic parlor trick is pulls off in your mind–you genuinely find yourself rooting for a drug dealer.

Let’s face it: in my pasty white world books like this scare the shit out of me. I’m thankful for the bubble in which I can comfortably (and safely) recline as my mind travels through an unimaginable universe no one should have to endure. In the process, I found myself becoming increasingly aware of something else.

I was thankful for my life. I was comforted by the fact that I very likely won’t ever have to face any similar circumstances–and I’m not talking about having to become a drug dealer in order to survive, getting mixed up in murder and Santeria, friends turning on you, running blindly for your life. These are the aspects of the dreamworld, the imagined nightmarish landscape through which the author’s brain had to travel and endure to get to the end. He wrote it. And you deserve it.

This book won’t break you, but it just might wake you up.

Ted Fauster

BINTI | Book Review by Weird Fantasy & Speculative Fiction Author Ted Fauster

BINTI by Nnedi Okorafor

BINTI
by Nnedi Okorafor

A review by weird fantasy & speculative fiction author Ted Fauster


HARRY POTTER IN SPACE!

I absolutely loved this novella!

Binti, a tech genius and member of the future Earth tribe Himba, is the first of her community to be accepted into a prestigious but far away university. Her parents do not wish her to attend, so she runs away to board the shuttle.

MILD SPOILER FOLLOWS!

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Once in transit, the spacecraft is quickly overrun by a strange alien race. Everyone aboard is killed, except for the pilot and Binti, who seems to be protected by a rare piece of ancient technology she has brought with her–the edan. Binti very quickly learns the edan contains both the power to repel and defend against the bizarre Meduse. In addition, she can use it to communicate with one of her captors and a weird sort of relationship is born.

The subsequent story that unfolds is energetic, palpable and intriguing. What I admire most, however, is the poetically tumbling language. Binti is speculative lit at its finest, a well-rounded cultural tone in a wildly imagined and futuristic scenario that pits two conflicting cultures against one another.

In this first novella of a now blockbuster series, Okorafor has crafted a powerful yet humbled character who is tested far beyond her comfort zone. The writing is rich and transformative. I felt as if I had become this young space traveler, and at times it felt as if my heart would pound out of my chest!

The rest of the BINTI series is definitely on my winter reading list. I eagerly look forward to continuing the story.

Ted Fauster