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.

REVIEW: Fall Flash Contest+Halloween

Review of H.L. Fullerton, “What You Ate Eats At You”, Syntax and Salt Fall Flash Contest, October 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Tiffany Crystal

As much as I like Syntax and Salt, I’ve learned that I don’t like all of the work they feature. This one, in particular wasn’t to my taste. Maybe because I was expecting something more….Halloween-y? I guess? It was an entry for a Fall Flash Contest, so the mistake is all mine, but still. And it was fixated on food. I found myself skimming it, just to get through the story. I couldn’t get into it. At all. If there was a redeeming point to the story, it was that it ended.

Honestly, if this was the third place winner, I’m scared to think of what didn’t make it.

Review of Wendy Wimmer, “Feðgin”, Syntax and Salt Fall Flash Contest, October 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Tiffany Crystal

This story confused me at first. The character’s father is a villain? There were explosions? Death ray, what? Then I got further into it, and…well, if you’re a Republican in the United States, you might want to skip this story completely. I’m not, so I enjoyed it immensely. I wasn’t quite filled with evil glee, but close.

Okay, back on track: the story is very short and simple. There are some questions left unanswered, which, as I’ve stated before, I hate, but it doesn’t really detract from the story, so I can bear it. And I have learned a new word, so bonus! Maybe just for me, but eh. You can’t win them all.

This story was the second place winner in Syntax and Salt’s fall flash contest.

(FYI: “Feðgin” means “Father and Daughter” apparently. Yay for learning!)

Review of Jennifer R. Donohue, “Aground, Upon the Sand”, Syntax and Salt Fall Flash Contest, October 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Tiffany Crystal

As soon as I saw the author’s name, I knew this was going to be good, and I was right. I’m not entirely sure it deserved first place in Syntax and Salt’s fall flash contest, but it was still a good read. Another short and simple work, this one is best enjoyed with some background knowledge of selkie mythology.

Review of Mariel Tishma, “Wax and Wane”, Syntax and Salt Halloween Special, October 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Tiffany Crystal

Well. Huh. Um, not sure what to say. Mariel Tishma has a very interesting way with words, and I certainly wish her the best of luck convincing her editor that she’s not just a pile of squirrels, but I’m a little thrown by this piece.

The character is a witch or a sorcerer, it appears, and so is their love(?) interest. If I read/understood the story correctly, the main character is in a love/hate relationship with the other witch. Or maybe the love interest isn’t a witch at all, and is just portrayed as one because of the “spell” she cast on the character? It’s hard to tell, honestly, but it is a well wrote piece and worth a read.

REVIEW: “Piece by Piece” by Sean Woznicki

Review of Sean Woznicki, “Piece by Piece”, Syntax and Salt 4, 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Tiffany Crystal

I’m not even sure what to say about this work. I’m the type that hates questions left unanswered, and this short story leaves way too many for my taste. There’s not even a suggestion of why the events in the story happen. Is it because of the woman? Is that why he loses nothing when he spends the night at his own home? If it’s the woman though, wouldn’t this be something she knew to look out for? Wouldn’t she be less horrified at finding his eyes?

I mean, in the beginning, she was entirely too blasé about the toe and the finger, and even the tongue, so I suspected it was entirely her fault, and that she knew about it. But her reaction to the eyes threw me. Perhaps her reaction is supposed to throw the audience, but it still doesn’t give you any answers.

Overall, for me, the story was frustrating because of the lack of answers, and hard to enjoy. It might’ve been different if we were at least given a reason to care about what was going on, but we aren’t even given that.

Oh well, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Hopefully others will enjoy it more than I did. At least it wasn’t badly written. It just wasn’t to my taste.

REVIEW: “Belong to Me” by Rachel Harrison

Review of Rachel Harrison, “Belong to Me”, Syntax and Salt 4, 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Tiffany Crystal

Well, gee, this one isn’t creepy as all get out or anything. It’s sunshine and lollipops, and okay, that’s enough sarcasm for now.

For something that starts out as a love story (kinda), the end is…huh. Rachel Harrison takes you through a tale that is, on the surface, anyway, similar to the premise of “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” If the best friend was a Martian, and the other woman was the main character’s other best friend.

Okay, so the comparison isn’t the best, but it’s better than using “Coneheads,” and the point remains. The story really shouldn’t be as creepy as it is, though to be fair, the creepy part is entirely conjecture. You aren’t given enough information to justify the chills that start creeping in, but you also aren’t given any reason to not get them.

Is the cousin telling the truth? Or was he lying? Where are all the Martian women? Who does Becky care about more? All it says is that she discovers who she loves more. The story leaves you with so many questions that demand answers, but in a way that you can’t really be mad at the author for.

And guys? It has aliens. Aliens. And UFO’s. Am I entirely too happy about that? Possibly. Go read it anyway. (Aliens!)