Book review: Short fiction

Hey everyone,

This week I’m reviewing two short fiction pieces from one of Paper Angel Press’ imprints, Water Dragon Publishing. Both are works of speculative fiction, transporting readers to imaginative worlds. It’s an impressive feat, to create compelling characters and build a word in the space of just a few short pages, but both these authors have done a great job with this. I recommend you check out both of these short works.

Parrish Blue, by Vanessa MacLaren-Wray, is a story dreamed out of the author’s experience with the Maxfield Parrish painting, Dream Castle in the Sky. In a far distant world, in a distant time, a woman’s life is changed by a dreamer who’s traveled across galaxies to see the painting. This is a love story, the story of a woman taking a leap of faith, inspired by someone who loves art.

The main character, Sallie, is a waitress in an exclusive restaurant, catering to Earth’s elite. When an unlikely patron ends up at one of her tables, she mistakes him for a victim of a set-up, a prop in a drama who would end up footing the bill for an expensive and lavish evening of fine drinks and exquisite food. But she’s wrong, and over the evening, as she brings the man one extravagant course after another, she comes to realize that he’s here for a different reason: for the painting and only the painting.

My favorite sentence describes the high-tech rendering of the painting. I love how the author marries old and new in this sentence, and how the reader immediately knows they’ve entered a completely different world.

“Mar-El Parelli’s ten-by-sixteen meter rendition of Maxfield Parrish’s Romance glowed with an impossible luminous, shimmering light made possible by MicroFirm’s patented image-generation components.”

26 pages, published 6/28/21

The Third Time’s The Charm, by Steven D. Brewer, takes place in an airship, a cross between an ocean liner and a gondola like that of “Castle in the Sky”. The story’s protagonist, Revin, is an apprentice to a history professory, Professor Dirge, and they are travelling to a distant university. The airship is powered by tow lines attached to what are called “ethereal streams”, or air currents. The lines are controlled by “remmers” whose work is to master the currents so the airship stays on course and stable.

But the ship, the Madeline, is overrun by pirates, and Revin is pitted against the pirate captain in two life and death struggles. The third time the two adversaries meet, Revin has to make a decision. And, as the title reminds us, “the third time’s the charm”! Not only is this a great adventure story, a swashbuckling pirate tale, but the author also skillfully incorporates a secret about the main character that the astute reader can glean from carefully placed hints.

My favorite sentence describes the main character’s thoughts about the journey ahead:

“His mind’s eye returned to the captivating vision outside the airship window: the bondless ocean dotted with tiny islands; white clouds forming on the lee side of volcanic peaks in the afternoon sun; and the glowing blue tow lines of remmers, drawing them inexorably forward, toward an unfamiliar land and unfamiliar people.”

38 pages, published 11/22/21

I recommend you check out both of these short pieces.