Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sea, Swallow Me

Craig Laurance Gidney
Completed 6/20/2018, Reviewed 6/24/2018
4 stars

This is a collection of short stories which was nominated for the Lambda Literary Award for SF/Fantasy/Horror.  Most of the stories would fall into the Fantasy category, and perhaps under the subheading of Urban Fantasy.  Almost all have to do with some sort of spiritual or mystical experience.  The prose is absolutely beautiful and the characters developed nicely for short stories.  The protagonists are mostly gay and/or black, with a few exceptions being a young Buddhist monk in a monastery, and a white Frenchman.  It’s a wonderful collection that I was glad to finally get around to. 

I really liked all the stories, but here are a few that I though stood out from the rest.

Her Spirit Hovering – This is about Howard, a young man longing to be a famous artist.  He has a mother who disapproved of almost everything in Howard’s life: his art, an Indian girlfriend, a white boyfriend, living in the city.  Howard carries her around in his head, even after she dies.

Come Join Me – Aime is a young boy who after a long spell of what sounds like the flu develops the ability to see dead people.  First, he sees relatives, later, all the people from the town he’s growing up in who came before him, particularly African and Native American people.  The last member of his family to have this gift killed herself because the voice of the dead people calling to her was so strong.  Will Aime suffer the same fate?

Sea, Swallow Me – The titular story is about a man on a tropical vacation who leaves his resort to experience the local flavor of the native peoples.  He comes across a village that is having some sort of religious experience with the Sea.  He follows, only to become trapped in their ritual.

Circus Boy Without a Safety Net – CB becomes obsessed with Lena Horne after watching the movie version of “The Wiz”, becoming his patron saint.  His parents of course disapproved when they found black Barbie-like dolls in gorgeous glitter gowns hidden in his closet.  In response, CB joins the church choir, where his talent for singing shines.  Despite all this hiding, the question becomes, will he ever be able to come out. 

A Bird of Ice – This story is about a young Buddhist monk who lives in a monastery.  One day he saves a swan from freezing in the river.  It turns out the swan is really a spirit who has fallen in love with him.  The young monk must decide if he will let himself love the spirit back. 

Catch Him by the Toe – A dark tale about the town of Azalea when the circus comes to town.  One of the acts is Sambo, an African Tiger Tamer, and Simba, the tiger he tames.  When Simba gets loose, fear grips the town and they descend to their basest instincts in resolving the problem.

Well, I guess that’s most of the stories.  I think what this says is that the stories really stuck with me.  I give this book four out of five stars.  The stories are haunting and deliciously prosy.  The collection is short, only about two hundred pages for nine stories.  Well worth the time to become acquainted with this excellent young voice in the fantasy genre. 

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