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The Gate 2: 13 Tales of Isolation and Despair Kindle Edition
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"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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Like so many shelters... A shelter, whether it's big like the mall in "Plastic" or small like the attic in "The Indian Rope Trick", is also a claustrophobic closed space where characters are imprisoned like Jonah in his whale. Sometimes, said shelter progressively vanishes as in "39 days". It's even possible to be trapped within the prison of one's own disabled body, as in "Does Laura like elephants?". In "Black Mary", the kidnapped feel(s) isolated in their closed space, but it's the kidnapper who's lonely and insane in Exhibit C, not only his victim. Trapped as he is in the prison of his mind.
Whatever the case, imprisonment triggers the imagination. All the characters create or recreate a semblance of real life, even if it's fake and pathetic ("Plastic"). This roleplaying, telling oneself stories, looks like a return to chilhood, even to the mother's womb at times, where they think they'll find a protection: "Guido held the girl, wishing he had a womb into which he could stuff her for protection." ("The One That Matters"). Here again, there's a tug of war between something negative like the powerlessness to change things in reality, and something positive: surviving through imagination. In "The Candle Eaters", the main character has reached the age when childhood and its make-believe come to an end, and she senses that it "changes everything". Even if she plays the part on Halloween, it's only a mask... If dreams and thoughts can take one very far, like Laura the disabled woman, they can also lead to a complete loss of bearings, meaning and sense, which is lethal for sanity.
Death is omnipresent, surrounding narrators and main characters. Being left alone is a form of death in itself. "Night Night" is a brilliant metaphor of absence leading to a loss of meaning: Life is like the clothes line which is no longer there because there's only one useless pole left in the yard. When two becomes one - in the wrong sense of the expression - Life stops (the title is awesome in that regard, as a single "Night" points to something negative and lonely, whereas the double "Night Night" is warm and full of promise). Death can become a liberation when the situation seems inextricable, as in "39 Days". It can also become multiple, and therefore all the more common, in "Destination" (a reenactement of Charon ferrying the dead) or "The Ghastly Bath". But all these deaths gave birth and life to this anthology...
At times, solace is found in the unlikeliest circumstances, as in "The Candle Eaters" or "Chorus". At other times, there is no solace but a slow descent into madness and depression ("Plastic", "Dead Things"). There's a link to be found between the ideas that these short stories convey (solitude, isolation, despair) and literature itself. Solitude is both a blessing and a curse, as the introduction by Robert J. Duperre states. If it's creative and liberating, it is also alienating and sterile, because everything we do has to be measured with others, nothing makes sense in itself. Estrangement leads to drama ("The World Event", "The Canoe"). Even a blessing seems intangible when received alone. That's the paradox of literature, contained in one way or another in each of these stories: it is a sort of generous sharing of an act of selfish loneliness.
"Every book is an image of solitude. It is a tangible object that one can pick up, put down, open, and close, and its words represent many months if not many years, of one man's solitude, so that with each word one reads in a book one might say to himself that he is confronting a particle of that solitude" (Paul Auster in The Invention of Solitude).
P.S.: I always forget to mention the art by Jesse David Young. It's awesome, as always. Even inspiring one of the short stories (Chorus).
I'd hesitated getting the book, because the last thing I need is to feel despair, but honestly, in most of the stories there was a small thread of hope. Or perhaps I'm just being optimistic, since most of them didn't have a stereotypical "happy" ending.
Get it, if you like skiffy/horror/paranormal, and don't require fluffy unicorns and carebears, you'll like it.
Enjoyed all of them except Ghastly Bath and The One That Matters. Ghastly bath didn't seem to have much to it. The one that matters was ok but seemed unfinished. Extra points, however, for the creepy and twisted Black Mary.
1. Plastic. I could only imagine how a person would cope in this situation. The author did a great job of making us walk in his shoes. I felt like I was slowly losing my mind from isolation also. This was a very twilight zoneish story.
2. Night night. I absolutely loved the twist at the end. I kept asking why in the world did he kill his brother...what happened??? The way we were able to see a glimpse into their relationship with flashbacks was good.
3. Black Mary.
So out of 12 stories, I really only cared for 3. The others were just okay.
1 star for each good story.
I will keep it in my collection just to read these 3 again.
Most recent customer reviews
Just don't expect them to end cheerfully! Alton Gloer