Wail of the Sun:
i admit: i’ve had it with this sort of epic fantasy, you’ve got to come up with something truly imaginative and magnificent to impress me these days with this sort of fiction; so there’s no way i can pass off saying i approached this story without apprehension, without bias. still, there’s much to be said about how this story didn’t work without resorting to ‘bah. another epic fantasy. grumble grumble’: the fantastic elements felt very contrived. some vivid imagery, maybe, but typical. the human elements were even weaker: Redenthor’s ‘flaw’ was hardly anything more than fluff, and couldn’t have been more poorly chosen; the characters in general were stereotypes, their dialogue predictable, artificial, unnecessary. the underlying sentiment of the entire piece was more melodramatic than truly affective, and while this story is supposedly meant to be a mere fragment, it also dismisses any responsibility for that connection; a king falters, a world burns; we’re meant to feel for the fact that he dies for his daughter? it can be done, sure -- in fact, i’m all for focusing on the intimate in the face of the cataclysmic -- but it certainly wasn’t done here.
this was the most fun of the lot. the sheer imaginative cheek of the premise alone is worth giving it a go, and Andrew Drilon’s well-sustained second-person execution does it justice, with just the right amount of humor -- cheeky, at times even self-effacing -- thrown in with the gore. it’s a typical zombie story, sure, and fits right in with the whole ‘Living Dead’ canon, with, perhaps, a little less of the biting social commentary. but who really watches those movies for ‘social commentary’ anyway?
and what did you expect after learning that MJ’s true legacy wasn’t, after all, certain questionable doings at a whimsical little place called Neverland? (i know, i know: we’ve all heard that one before. but it’s true, ennit?) pure entertainment.
The Middle Prince:
i’ve said much about this already, broadcast by Banzai Cat over on his blog, and i really don’t know how else to put it. an interesting premise that was not done justice; there seem to be a few too many ‘shortcuts’ in the narrative, ‘violations’ of the ‘rules’ upon which the premise relies so heavily for it to be truly
meaningful. i can’t help but feel it could have been so much richer; i don’t feel convinced this is the way the story ‘should’ have been written, what i feel is one of the ‘obligations’ of a writer to the reader. that may be utterly wrong-headed and, in the end, may have been the only problem, but still: that definitely ruined it for me.
pulpy, predictable, derivatively lovecraftian horror? hell yeah! Joseph Nacino drops one from his personal crusade to translate spec fic tropes into something that actually fits a Filipino context. i don’t think BC quite does it here -- he good cop-bad cop elements, for instance, are a little disinheriting, though i’m sure some local filmmakers would beg to differ -- but the delivery doesn’t push any such pretensions, and so neither does the appreciation of this story require it; this is a story told the way it’s told, the way it happened. period.
a friend of mine pointed out the sentimentality of this story: ‘the fifth element is love.’ while there is something, appropriately, very Filipino about resorting to such melodrama, i realized my friend was right; there’s also something about it that simply throws the whole thing off. however, i’m not sure we meant the same thing: well-written (possibly the most well-written of all the stories here), well-researched (possibly the most etc., etc., as well), i found a pretension to the tone of this story that i felt inappropriate, and while my friend didn’t agree it was at all ‘too pretentious’, it was his comment that unlocked it for me: the gravitas to this story is somehow undone by that sentimentality; suddenly the pretension is revealed to be naiveté, and the whole thing collapses on the weight of its own, er, gravitas.
obviously, i wasn't personally happy with most of the contents of this Digest, but, given my current tastes, mindset, etc. (and anyway, who am i to talk?) that should probably be taken as a mark of approval rather than a fatal judgement: Kenneth has provided a much needed avenue for the publication of stories that might not otherwise have found a home.
not all of you will be pleased, not with everything you find in this Digest; then again, isn't that part of the nature of genre?