From Here to Hallucigenia by Michael Sutherland

HERE
From Here to Hallucigenia by Michael Sutherland
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Horror, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Short Story (89 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Aviatrix- a steam punk tale set in Edwardian middle-England. Doodlebug – a train journey like none other through a future war-torn Europe. It’s Up to You Now, Bambi – Criminal aliens on parole ruled by a matriarch like none other who end up saving a little boy from his evil parents. What Goes Around Comes Back Weird – Be careful what you pray for because it definately will not come back anything like the way you expected it to.

Have you ever had a sneaking suspicion that an acquaintance is withholding a truth about themselves?

We never really know what’s going on in other people’s homes or heads. From quiet, single gardeners to young couples just starting out in life, everyone presents only some of their true selves to the outside world. This collection peels back the friendly, if also unusually private, facade that four different characters have erected to keep themselves or their families safe.

“Doodlebug” starts off with an extended description of what has happened to Europe over many generations. I read a half dozen pages before I met the narrator and began to figure out why he was running. It was a little confusing to piece together everything that was happening because of the order in which certain clues are provided, but once the plot picked up I was quickly drawn into the main character’s plight.

I felt like I was an active participant in “It’s Up to You Now, Bambi” because the character and scene descriptions were so vivid. The dialogue between Frank and the narrator was sometimes difficult to believe due to how casually they discussed graphic subject matter, but once I discovered why they were so accustomed to spare body parts floating around their conversations quickly became my favorite part of this tale.

“Aviatrix” could easily be expanded into a series or full length novel, and it was the best story in this collection. The emotional bond between Simon and Adrian is so tightly woven they almost could have sailed through this adventure without verbally communicating with one another. One look would be all either one would need to know what the other was thinking.

The first few scenes of “What Goes Around Comes Back Weird” were so enthralling I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. Eric’s relationship with his husband is a tentative happy ending to a bizarre childhood. Unfortunately the pacing grew uneven as the plot progressed, and some of the twists never quite made sense to me. The premise was excellent, but this story would have benefited from a final round of editing before publication.

From Here to Hallucigenia asks questions I’d never before pondered, and it took me to places I didn’t know could exist. This is a great recommendation for readers who prefer jumping straight into the action while the backstory is revealed in small doses.

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