Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The supernatural with a human touch

Tall Tales of Gods, Demons and Superstitions

By Ari Abraham

Publisher: Antipodes Press

Pub Date: January 15, 2015

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Ari Abraham titled his recently published short fiction collection, Tall Tales of Gods, Demons, and Superstitions. Despite the lengthy title, he may have wanted to add "and the human condition." For even though his supernatural tales do contain a spirit or a devil or simply something hinging on the supernatural, they really are about humanity and our inner conflicts. His book contains 14 short stories in a relatively short collection of 100 plus pages. While one can call these tales supernatural or fantasy, they all seem to be focusing on human problems of an existential nature. The endings tend to have a slight twist at the end but it is usually a mild mannered turn, sort of O Henry meets The Twilight Zone. Some are downright philosophical as in "Death was an Ornery Bastard" where Death gives a constant seeker of truth a bit of advice. Others touch on various stage of life issues with a deft sensibility. "Christmas Eve", where a child finds unusual assistance in facing disillusionment for the first time is one of those gentle but imaginative stories. Surprisingly one of my favorites is "Missing Hank", a dog's perspective on death. I say "surprisingly" because my regular readers know I don't usually go for the heart-warmers but I am glad I had some Kleenex handy for this one.

That isn't to say the author doesn't have a wicked side. "A Promise Kept" is a rather sneaky little tale and "Halal", my second favorite tale, is a sly take on a more sinister theme in horror. Yet even these focus on the human side rather than the supernatural setting or dilemma. Another nice thing about these tales is their geographical setting ranging from New York to Kuala Lumpur, Abraham's seemingly multi-cultural background adds good variety and insight to the stories.

Tall Tales is a very good collection of short fiction. The fiction's down side, not really a down side for some readers, is that they tend to be deceptive. Some of them seem to cut off quickly without the punch or thrill one might expect in dark fantasy. But the quick and subtle style will leave one with a feeling that there is much more going on than meets the eyes. And they will be right. It is a Banana Yoshimoto "so simple it is deep" style of storytelling. This is a collection for those who enjoy short fiction that deals with the supernatural yet is centered on a too human existence. If you like your fantasy with a dash of darkness but lots of heart, this will be the book for you.

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