Reviews of “Breathe” and “Chameleon” by Layden Robinson
Instead of two separate posts, since I read these two books one after the other, I thought it would make more sense to combine their review into one post.
Breathe is a collection of short stories from Layden Robinson that are very difficult to pin down. Surreal horror with a perhaps bizarre slant might describe some of this work, though even that perhaps doesn’t quite encapsulate what these twelve shorts are all about. Free form poetry? Perhaps. The utterings of a madman? Quite possibly.
There is a preponderance of adjectives and adverbs slathered freely throughout these tales of nightmare and perhaps waking dreams. Perhaps there are too many-some jarring and disruptive, as is the flow and pacing in much of these tales. These are not stories for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. Vampires, assassins, mannequins, giant tarantulas, and serial killers abound in stories of failure and perhaps redemption, though there are as many uncontrolled laughs bursting forth as there are profound meanings, or so it seemed to me.
It’s fair to say that this probably isn’t a book that will be everyone’s cup of tea. It is something you have focus on, glean and decipher as you can, and determine what meaning there is for you. I won’t lie and say I was satisfied with every story-on the contrary, some left me frustrated and exasperated. Perhaps that is the point. I wasn’t quite sure where to go with some of these tales. Certainly, there is meaning to be found, but whether it will resonate for you will be determined if you are receptive to letting your mind get bent a little, then a little more, with each written word.
Check it out for yourself here: https://www.amazon.com/Breathe-Layden-Robinson-ebook/dp/B00LD8JYLE?ie=UTF8&ref_=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top
Chameleon is a standalone short by Layden Robinson that is as surreal and trippy as his short story collection, Breathe, though it is more cohesive and compelling from my perspective. It is a magical journey of discovery-a quest, if you will, that is perhaps partly dream and partly reality, or maybe entirely acid trip. Regardless, it is an adventure that challenged the main character at every turn and did the same with me the reader. Demons, the devil, loss, tragedy, hope, peace, and redemption are things that come to mind here, though interpretations will vary. This isn’t an easy story to review or even describe, except perhaps as an enchanting fever dream that pokes and prods at you because as soon as you think you have a fix on where it is going, it jars you and changes course. The pace is brisk but the taste of each section, or compartment of this short story, leaves a flavor on your mouth, whether it be bitter or a vague hint of sweetness. And then the taste changes when you turn the page once more.
Chameleon can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Chameleon-Layden-Robinson-ebook/dp/B00KHB71QI?ie=UTF8&ref_=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top
Review of Stephen Kozeniewski’s “Billy and the Cloneasaurus”
Billy and the Clonesaurus tells the tale of William 790-6, a clone who lives in a town filled with other William clones, in a world filled with even more William clones. As with every other William clone, he is to be slurried, or decommissioned, on his first birthday, and replaced by the next iteration. When an accident happens at the slurrying plant with William 789 and 790 is given another day to live, he spends it with his replacement and starts to resent the idea of his imminent departure. Happenstance allows him to once again escape being decommissioned when his new iteration is tossed into the ‘whirling blades of death’ that are used to slurry clones instead of him and he is free to live for another year. But Will, as he and every other clone call each other, finds himself a bit more curious than the average Will about the world surrounding him and the reasons every other Will does what they do for the corporation that controls everything. 790 sells dental insurance, and every other Will does everything necessary to make life possible for everyone else in town. There are Wills who pick up the trash, there are Wills who run the gas stations, etc. They hang out in their off hours drinking the same beer in the same pubs, watching the same Rugby games every weekend. They are all the same level of docile worker doing whatever needs to be done to make the company profitable, and they have no reason to question why there are no animals and no one else left on the planet but other Wills, like themselves. But 790 is starting to get curious, and after hearing another Will talk about a delivery run to another town and spotting something off in the distance on the side of the road that looks like a windmill, he feels the urge to check out this anomaly and see what is going on beyond his guarded, safe existence. This leads 790 on a journey of self-discovery-learning why clones exist, why it appears that the exact same events are reported on at the same time every year, and what might have come before they came into existence.
Billy and the Clonesaurus is a dark comedy that tasted a bit like the movie Brazil in its own demented way. It is grim future that 790 lives in, and as William 790 starts to call himself Billy as a form of minor rebellion against the status quo, he begins to realize the depths of the mystery surrounding him and the rest of the Wills of the world, or so he believes. Escaping the town he lives in is only the beginning. Beyond that, he has several shocking revelations and dreams of something better…something approaching freedom, not only for himself, but for every other William.
While it may be hard not to laugh at the idea of such an obscene world, the thoughts of something like this occurring are also cringe-worthy and provide for good nightmare fuel. As more layers of the deceit that have been heaped on 790 and the rest of the clones are peeled back, there are plenty of reasons to feel both revulsion and depression, because while the world that Billy lives in is filled with clones, the depths of the depravity he faces is very much a human characteristic.
I’ve read the authors other works, both of which dealt with the undead. While this story shares little with those other books, it has the same razor sharp edges to it that don’t show very much remorse when you get cut by them. This is a trip into the Twilight Zone with a nod to the Simpsons with the story’s title. It’s probably not a tale easily digested by everyone, but one worth checking out if you like your futures grim, dark, and yet surreal and just a tad bit looney.
Billy and the Clonesaurus can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Billy-And-Cloneasaurus-Stephen-Kozeniewski/dp/192504789X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
Review of “Candy” by Gerald Dean Rice
Candy is actually the title of the first of two short stories in this Kindle download, with the second entitled “Mr. Cumberland’s Last Magic Show.” Since they are short stories, it’s difficult to do more than give a brief description of both stories without giving too much away. Candy is about a man who has always been faithful to his wife, despite a lack of a love life between them. When a beautiful girl walks into the diner he’s sitting in and aggressively propositions him, he has no choice but to follow her up to her hotel room. Last Magic Shows tells the tale of Floyd, a magician who has a knack for making things disappear and reappear. But the real trick is that his magic is real, what he is capable of doing with that magic terrifies him.
Both stories have a bit of madness to them-twisty darkness with endings that stick with you after you’ve finished reading them. Candy starts out as a pretty straight-laced adultery story with a disturbing completion that might give potential cheaters pause. Magic was my favorite of the two tales, with a surreal quality to it that remains throughout, growing more intriguingly wicked as it comes to a conclusion.
For the price, it’s a bargain to check out these two well written stories by an up and coming independent writer.
Candy can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Candy-ebook/dp/B006JT5U1K/ref=sr_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330304403&sr=1-8