ChiZine, #35

I’ve read a bunch of issues of ChiZine before and have always found the e-zine to be well-done. This is the first I’ve written of them though, so somewhere in here is an unseen comparison to previous issues which you readers out there have no clue as to how I felt about them. Oh well. Get on and get out. On to the stories… 

“Dust and Bibles” by Michael Colangelo takes place in a different Nevada than we know today. The story opens wonderfully, hitting all the senses just right and sticking me out in the desert where vultures circled above and the sun smiled down with pleasure. Okay, if anything, the story opens strongly. A man is driving away with a severed head in the passenger seat, as well as an evelope of cash. He’s also being followed, but he soon meets a man who lives his days by selling Bibles to all kinds of folks. Good, bad, upstanding citizens, murderers. But that doesn’t make him a saint.

Mmm, this is good. Really good. Things truly pick up once betrayal rears its ugly muzzle. The story has style, it has a voice, and it has a whole lot of hilariously disturbing dialogue referencing lady parts. The plot, in actuality, is fairly basic, but the characters and descriptions keep things moving. I particularly liked the Bible salesman’s outcome, in that it was not dragged out or overtly dramatic. Just what it was. A great start to the issue. For some reason, I pictured this as a piece that the Cohen brothers–you know, Fargo and No Country for Old Men–would love to film. It has all the right makings: iconic characters, violence, and plots for lots of money. I’ll keep my fingers crossed…

Rating: 8.5 anonymous stars out of 10

Lavie Tidhar’s “The Mystery of the Missing Puskat” was a bit harder to get. In it, a man named Densley who was raised on the American lore that film noir/pulpy detective work is above and beyond one’s call of duty takes on a case. He must find a little girl’s cat, her puskat if you will.

As is common with Tidhar’s work, the story’s language and tone is evocative, atmospheric, and–I hate to say this–somewhat unreadable at times. Sporadic clues are sprinkled throughout as Densley traverses into familiar and unfamiliar terrority, remembering bits of childhood nostalgia all while continuing to focus on the task at hand. I did appreciate Densley’s innocence, his doe-eyed wonder at detecting:

There is the butt of a cigarette lying on the ground. Densley is excited again; the case is going well.

It’s moment like these that make him a likeable character, make the story worth reading. Unfortunately, the ending is not worth the buildup. Sure, conflict is resolved and all that, but it’s fairly basic stuff, never anything that jumps out of the shadows to grab you, beat your head in, and release you back into the world. Man takes on case for lost cat, man searches for cat, man finds cat, man grow up on the inside. It’s been done before, albeit with different characters and places, but it just wasn’t rewarding enough for me to love.

Rating: 6.5 anonymous stars out of 10

A. C. Wise’s “Matthew” opens with a question, and a damned good one at that:

“Do you remember being dead?”

Rana asks this of Matthew as they sit talking over a cup of coffee. See, it’s a smart thing to ask, especially considering she’d been at his funeral only just the other day. The story can sort of be summed up with the notion that you really don’t miss something until it’s gone. In Rana’s case, she never really loved Matthew until he came back from the great beyond. But he’s not the only dead to return, as soon many more come knocking at doors citywide. And, surprisingly, it is not the dead that want answers, but the living. Rana included.

This is a subtle piece of dark fiction. It deals with human connectediness in a way more chilling than, say, a monster romp where a bunch of people band together to survive the unknown. Some dead come back to live, others don’t. This brings living people to their knees, wondering who deserves what and why. Many questions, not so many answers. I found the relationship Rana and Matthew grew into to be both chilling and fascinating, never a solid thing but never one so empty of love and emotion that it felt forced.

Rating: 9 anonymous stars out of 10

Poetry’s not really my thing, but for those that like it I doubt they’d not enjoy the pieces offered within from Leah Bobet, John Grey, Joanne Merriam, and Samuel Minier.

However, I’m very much looking forward to the next issue…

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1 Comment »

  1. […] far more positive review of Matthew, and ChiZine#35 as a whole, can be found over here at A Mystery That […]

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