Peace Boat by Richard James

Peace Boat by Richard James
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (68 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

An eclectic mash up of styles and genres, this collection features over twenty stories inspired by the ports of call on a 2012 voyage with the Japanese NGO Peace Boat. A Japanese maid in Tokyo, a power hungry vizier in Istanbul and a sailor assailed by ghosts while navigating the Panama Canal are just a few of the varied characters to be found inside.

How much can one really learn about a place or character if you’re only provided the briefest glimpse of what is going on?

Imagine getting to know someone or someplace new over the course of a few paragraphs. While a few entries are a little longer than that, most pack all of their action into extremely small spaces. Several different genres are represented throughout the pages, although none of them are present in every single vignette. Jumping rapidly from one genre to the next kept me on my toes from beginning to end. By the end I learned to prefer the shortest pieces of flash fiction because of how easily they melt into one another.

“Tokyo (1)” is an excellent introduction to this unique book. It follows the thoughts of a young woman whose employers make her stand outside and lure people into their cafe while wearing revealing clothing during a bitterly cold evening. I was mesmerized by the difference between the persona she adapts and what she’s actually thinking as she works. Like all of the tales in this collection, it left me wishing for more when it finished.

A few flash fictions would have worked much better had they been written as traditional short stories instead. The narrator in “Panama” has a paranormal experience while standing on the walkway of a docked ship that initially made me shudder. The idea of encountering what the narrator finds is fascinating, but the concept is too large for this kind of format. A few other tales felt similarly rushed and would have also done better had they been given more time to develop.

Another favourite of mine is “Rome.” In it a bored man who is reluctantly part of a walking tour group discovers something that no one else has seen for many generations. I especially appreciated the abrupt transitions between time periods in this short story because they were so helpful in understanding where the narrator is coming from and why he reacts the way he does in the first few paragraphs.

I’d heartily recommend Peace Boat to anyone in the mood to be swept away into other times and places. This is a well-organized collection that I had a hard time putting down.

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