Web fiction reviews by Lauren Colie
April is showering talent down upon us. With the dreary weather comes a flood of memories, emotion and even a circus tent. In this cabinet collection you’ll find heart-wrenching lost love, chest-tightening found love and deep-breath-before-the-plunge decisions about the future. Let these stories wash over you with innovative ideas and carefully-crafted emotional content.
A Review of Ishq, by Usman Malik at Nightmare Magazine
I looked at my mother’s still form in the gloom. There is an Urdu word which has no English equivalent: Ishq. Means the state of a lover’s heart during separation, contemplation, or annihilation unto the lover. The point where the lover becomes the beloved. Sometimes it also means nostalgia for a love forever gone and the love which remains after death.
Battling with cancer, our narrator’s mother is eager to share all of her memories from growing up in Pakistan. One story centers around her sister, crippled by polio, and the handsome shakarkandi vendor who refuses to leave her side, even in death. Amma explores her past feelings and exorcises the ghost of Parveen through sharing the tale.
You know you’ve found fictive gold when the Editor-in-Chief sends you a link that blew them away. “Ishq” blew me away, as well. Usman Malik’s innovative love story wrenches from you the same nostalgia for love forever gone that it demands from its characters. Tightly-crafted, richly-colored and breathtakingly mournful, “Ishq” asks you to imagine the deepest depths of love, in all its forms. It takes tragedy and opens it up, breaking down pettiness, selfishness, hatred and envy. It questions how we treat ourselves and others. It forces us to confront fear, in whatever guise that ever-present specter manifests. I recommend this piece if you’re looking for a reason to shed an empathetic tear (or ten) for text that clips along at an energetic pace and packs within it the love, sorrow and universal truths of an entire lifetime.
Read it HERE
A Review of Loud as Murder, by Sarah Johnson at Crossed Genres
My name isn’t Buddy. He just means it like we’re friends. He knows my name is Henry Graham. It’s on the shipping label. I don’t know Dev’s last name. He doesn’t wear a label. I do know he has a beautiful body, a sweet smile, and I think about him a lot in the shower. That’s the infatuation part.
Another tale of letting love in, “Loud as Murder” tackles the perspective of how love works with autism. With a writing style that places the reader squarely inside Henry’s head, this is an experiential piece not to be missed. Engaging, enlightening and entertaining, you might need several passes before all the minutiae become clear—even master proofreader Henry needed three reads to get it right. What’s with that crow, anyway?
Sarah Johnson offers a chance to immerse yourself in a unique love story with just a drop of weird. See the UPS guy through Henry’s eyes…and decide for yourself whether you should let him in.
Read it HERE
A Review of When the Circus Lights Down, by Sarah Pinsker at Uncanny Magazine
It was falling hard and quickly now; if I stepped away, I might miss the rest. The graceful big top, her skirts billowing, even in the rain. Smaller tents like satellites, pinwheeling around the big top, intent on their own orbits. The small ones skittered when they hit the ground, vying for space. The big top landed solid and square, absorbing the impact through her walls. I felt the thump of it even all these blocks away and four stories up. It called to me, as it had every time before.
DROP EVERYTHING — the circus has landed. See how the big top attracts the whole town, how it has an unsettling power over people and how Haley struggles to resist its call. Question with us, Haley and her mother what “real life” really is.
Sarah Pinsker’s sparkling imagination shines through this whimsically dark tale. This near-sentient circus challenge these small-town residents to shirk responsibility to see the show — over and over. Remember, there are only three types of people: people who want to go to the circus, people who want to be in the circus and people who haven’t made up their minds which they are yet. What kind are you? Step right up — adventure beckons.