REVIEW: “High, High, Away” by Hamilton Perez

Review of Hamilton Perez, “High, High Away”, Syntax and Salt #5, December 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Tiffany Crystal

“High, High Away” is a depressing story wrapped in the robes of fantasy. You almost feel cheated, honestly. You get sucked in with the promise of dragons, and by the time you realize what is really happening, you’re already on the road to heartbreak.

That being said, Mr. Perez does a very good job of spinning a tale of a child losing their parent to what appears to be drug use. If you have ever suffered from physical abuse, you might want to steer clear of this story. The father isn’t depicted as ever laying hands on the child, but the mother doesn’t appear to be so lucky. At the end, I was torn between being glad the father was gone, and feeling sorry for the child. It’s obvious the kid loved their father and didn’t really understand the story or what the father did to the mother, but as the reader, we know, and it’s…oh, it’s difficult.

All in all, it’s not a bad story. It’s a bit of a cheat, since it’s not really a fantasy story, but it’s still not bad.

REVIEW: “The Elements of The Plague” by Julia August

Review of Julia August, “The Elements of The Plague”, Syntax and Salt #5, December 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Tiffany Crystal

Alright, so this story is confusing. At first, it doesn’t even really seem like a story…it’s more like an instruction manual. Then it’s more like a warning guide. Then you get to the end, and you go “…wait a minute…”

I am a little embarrassed at how long it took me to really understand what’s going on in this little ditty, but once it hit me, I had to give it a slow clap. If you like timey-wimey stuff, give it a read, but pay attention. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

REVIEW: “The Fox, Expatriate” by Emily Horner

Review of Emily Horner, “The Fox, Expatriate”, Syntax and Salt #5, December 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Tiffany Crystal

I can’t really say much about this work. It’s a bit of a mix between the mythologies of the nine-tailed fox and the selkie. There’s nothing in particular that stands out in one way or another. Fox woman falls in love with human man. Fox woman takes off fur to become a human woman. She moves in with the man. She gets tired of being a human, but the skin won’t fit anymore. She leaves anyway. That’s….it. That is the substance. It’s not bad, exactly, it’s just not something that grabs you by the face and drags you in. At the very least, it’s a good quick read-and-move-onto-the-next-thing story.

REVIEW: “Milk Teeth and Heartwood” by Kathryn McMahon

Review of Kathryn McMahon, “Milk Teeth and Heartwood”, Syntax and Salt #5, December 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Tiffany Crystal

This is another story I’m not really sure how I feel about. It has an interesting premise, but there isn’t enough substance. It feels like it could be so much better…almost like it was rushed. She put together this great idea, the bare bones of it, and then just…threw it out there for the world to see. It’s really disappointing. There’s so much more she could’ve delved into.

Like, why is it only the mother and daughter? If the trees protect them, what happened to the father? Did the mother leave like her daughter had, only to come back pregnant, and that’s why they’re alone? What does the girl’s lovers think of the red lace that covers her arms? Do they know about the trees, or is that a local thing? How long was she gone, for her mother to have tree trunks for legs? Did moving away do anything to slow the change? Did she buy the weedkiller to use on herself, or in case the trees tried to follow her?

The story isn’t bad, don’t get me wrong. It’s just…missing something.

REVIEW: “Mother Imago” by Henry Stanton

Review of Henry Stanton, “Mother Imago”, Syntax and Salt #5, December 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Tiffany Crystal

I didn’t understand this work at all. It has some beautiful lines in it, and I get the impression that the title is a play on words, “Mother, I’mma go (now)”, but other than that, I’m really not sure what the author was trying to play at.

What is the importance of those three guns? Did the shadow that appeared make the person walk further into the marsh? Or was it symbolic of them waking up to realizing that they didn’t mean anything to the world? They mention passing through “that circle of hell”, and shades, which gives the impression that they’re a ghost. Are they walking into the marsh because they’ve grown weary of their existence outside their mother’s shack? How did their mother summon them, anyway?

Don’t get me wrong, the writing is well done, I just wish for a bit more substance to the story.

REVIEW: “When We Sleep, We Kill the World” by Adam Lock

Review of Adam Lock, “When We Sleep, We Kill the World”, Syntax and Salt #5, December 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Tiffany Crystal

Here’s one that will get you thinking. Artificial Intelligence and the future of robots/robotics can be a bit of a hot button topic, especially with the news story of the robot who opened a door for a “friend.” You have the people who are convinced that robots are going to try and take over the world, and then you have people who will turn it into a debate over what makes a person real. The Turing Test only tests a machine’s ability to mimic human behaviour. What happens when it becomes less of a mimic, and more of a truth? That is – what happens when the emotions are no longer perceived to be fake – to the robot or the human observer? What is it that sets humans apart from an AI that advanced?

“When We Sleep, We Kill the World” hits on that debate like it’s a massive gong at the mouth of a valley – you will feel the questions it brings up in your bones and will stay with you many miles down the road. I cannot recommend it enough.

REVIEW: “In the Beginning, All Our Hands Are Cold” by Ephiny Gale

Review of Ephiny Gale, “In the Beginning, All Our Hands Are Cold”, Syntax and Salt #5, December 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Tiffany Crystal

By now, if you’ve been paying attention to my reviews, you know that I hate unanswered questions. I like knowing the whys and the wherefores, I like having an ending, even if it’s just a simple “and they lived happily ever after.” When a story leaves too many questions, it’s like drinking a glass of water and still being thirsty. Or an itch beneath the skin that you just can’t reach.

The only thing this story had, out of all that, was an ending.

We have no idea why kids are born without hands. We don’t know if this is something that only happens to kids in this village, or world wide. We don’t know why the children change to fit the hands, or how the magic that keeps them young works. We don’t know if the hands call to the people they would be the best fit, or if the person picks the hands and their personality changes to fit the hands.

There were just so many unanswered questions…and I loved it.

The questions In the Beginning leaves, are like a cold cup of fruit juice on a hot summer’s day. It tastes great going down, and it leaves you wanting more, but not in a “I have the Sahara in my mouth” kinda way. It has made its way into my (very) short list of favorite short stories, and I am looking forward to reading more from this author.