Vacui Magia: Stories by L.S. Johnson

Vacui Magia: Stories by L.S. Johnson
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (220 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

L.S. Johnson delivers a provocative and original short story collection that ingeniously blends myth and nightmare. Whether it concerns the efforts of an infertile witch to construct a golem-baby, or a daughter’s quest to understand a father’s guilt and a mother’s supernatural infidelities, or a woman’s violent association with a group of possibly imaginary but nonetheless dangerous little men, each story in this remarkable collection demonstrates the limitless capacity of intelligent speculative fiction to enthrall, inspire, and amaze.

Sometimes there are excellent reasons to be afraid.

The main character in “Little Men with Knives” was a poor, lonely woman who felt trapped by her depressing job and run-down home. The one bright spot in her life was her strange relationship with the little creatures who lived on her property and did favours for her in exchange for home cooked meals. What I liked most about the plot development was how quickly the narrator showed the audience what the major conflicts were in her life. That made it interesting to see how she responded when her life grew even grimmer than it had been before. She was someone that I desperately wanted to see catch a break in life, so I was eager to see how it all ended.

There were some stories in this collection that I found confusing. For example, it took me quite a while to figure out what was happening in “The Pursuit of the Whole Is Called Love.” The narrator spent so little time explaining why they were wandering the streets with their partner that I struggled to stay interested in what they were searching for. I can’t say much about what those motives were without giving away spoilers because of how important that big reveal was for the last few scenes, but I would have really liked to have more clues about who these characters were and what they were doing earlier on.

“Clotho” intrigued me from the beginning. The storyline follows a young girl who lives an extremely isolated life with her mother and grandmother. Every day is exactly the same as the one before it from the foggy weather to the style and color of clothing that she wears. While I guessed what the twist might be before the main character did, seeing if I was right was so fascinating that I didn’t mind having the answer a little early. There were so many other unusual things going on in her life that I was just as interested in the ending as I would have been if it had been a surprise.

I’d recommend Vacui Magia: Stories to anyone who enjoys dark and unique science fiction.

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