An atmosphere of magical realism surrounds three interrelated short stories about an aberrant elevator, the legend of Icarus, and a girl who can fly.
“Will you tell us a story—a tale of wonderment?” This question appears in the third of these short stories, but all three tell wondrous tales. In “The Elevator,” a young man in Paris for his first business trip finds that his hotel’s elevator seems to have a mind and motion of its own, moving sideways and depositing him in unexpected locations. He has unsettling encounters that remind him of his limitations (for example, understanding art) and losses (family and faith). Looking back, he wonders why he avoided taking the elevator a fifth time. In the title story, a young scientist muses on the Greek myth of Icarus and his own childhood dreams of flying, inspired by viewing Pablo Picasso’s painting The Fall of Icarus. He reimagines the story so that Icarus succeeds—not by flying the recommended middle way, but by improving his father’s wings. Flight again takes center stage in “The Girl.” The narrator, an archivist, is a young woman who can’t remember her own name. She meets an elderly couple and tells them her “tale of wonderment” about a schoolgirl who masters the art of flying, breaking free from those who would ground her. The old woman reassures her that “Eventually you’ll remember your true name.” Bates (At the Sharp End of Lightning, 2015) has a sure and delicate touch. His stories have a dreamlike quality where oddities may puzzle but are taken for granted. Though Bates writes with a lovely crystalline clarity, understanding is elusive for his characters; when the first narrator asks a graffiti artist what his work means, the artist replies, “It means nothing. Why should this mean anything to you? Perhaps I don’t want to be deciphered.” The stories have a mournful sense of lost opportunity or talent denied, especially the first, but the last two hold out hope for retelling one’s story in transformative ways.
Intriguing and enchanting, with the rich allusiveness of poetry.
Pirates, magic and a secret society collide in this fantasy middle-grade novel.
This fast-paced novel follows best friends Cameron and Miguel, who are looking for adventure while cruising through their Arizona town on a tandem bicycle. They find it when an enchanted pirate ship flies overhead and lands in a convenience store’s parking lot. The ship sets up as a shop, which uses an intoxicating mist to trick customers into buying overpriced sea-themed merchandise, while simultaneously making them defenseless against pickpocket pirates. Cameron has bigger problems when Blackbeard, the ship’s intimidating captain, decides that the tween has stolen a powerful ring that would allow him to shape-shift into any person he imagines. Raising the stakes, the pirates kidnap Miguel and force him to perform grunt work with no chance of release. Cameron enlists the help of his best gal pal, Marcella, to free Miguel, but their mission takes a surprising turn when they discover a secret society protecting an underground gold mine. Author Loge keeps the action coming as the trio encounter a nasty doppelganger, a sinister talking parrot and a gang of violent pirates. The breezy writing ensures that the story doesn’t get stale. With so many quick twists and turns, young readers could get lost along the way, but Loge clearly explains all the unexpected changes to keep his audience on track. In addition to a sprinkling of black-and-white illustrations, Cameron’s easy friendship with Miguel and Marcella keeps things light and youthful when the tale could have been bogged down with one too many odd, mystical events. The heart of the book—a young boy as the chosen one who must defeat an evil enemy—has been a common YA plotline in recent years, but Loge’s energetic style makes the theme seem fresh.
A fun adventure for anyone who’d love to see a few spunky kids trick some bad-news pirates.
In Herold’s debut novel, a young, womanizing boozehound struggles to catch up with his elusive Alaska-bound cruise ship.
Young, single Tom Courier has just been gifted an all-expenses-paid trip aboard the Nordic Princess, courtesy of his cousin and co-worker, Scott. His objective: two weeks of bourbon-soaked, coitus-filled relaxation. Things seem on track after he achieves his objective an hour into his initial connecting flight. From there, however, his plans veer wildly off course: A bomb detonates on the plane’s wing, forcing an emergency landing in Portland. Tom misses the Princess’ departure, but his luggage finds its way on board and serves as motivation throughout the story for him to reach the ship. Unfazed, Tom seizes the opportunity to spend an erotic evening with Mandy—the “cougar” he met on the plane—in a secluded hideaway in the Oregon wilderness. Herold’s ominous foreshadowing hints at Tom’s impending misfortune, and trouble continues to lurk just below the surface for much of the novel. The author maintains sufficient momentum as his protagonist pushes on, inching ever closer to reaching his stateroom aboard the seafaring vessel. Yet an ensuing stream of uncannily coincidental mishaps keeps him perpetually one step behind. On his next layover, in British Columbia, Tom finds himself in another love affair, this time with a local surfing champion named Giata. In increasingly predictable fashion, this fling proves more urgent than catching the ship, of which Tom remains in tepid pursuit. Unfortunately, Tom’s seemingly one-track mind accentuates his shallow depth of character and risks preventing many readers from relating to him. Following another airplane crash, Tom finds himself in the port town of Ketchikan, Alaska, engaging in yet another romance with a local beauty. There, he’s hurled inexplicably into a two-man campaign to track down a mythical, luck-bringing sea beast. The story’s rapid pace continues at the expense of character development, while typos throughout further distract from the more subtle plot threads Herold attempts to weave. Despite the lulling effect of its rhythmic, seemingly inevitable series of calamities, the story revives for a compelling final twist.
A fast-paced, engaging trip to the heart of a bachelor, without enough plausibility or dimension.