Collection of distinction
I APPROACHED Amok with curiosity, little anticipating the exhilarating ride that I had signed up for. It was simply amazing to dive into worlds that encompassed everything from warm childhood fairytales and an alternate yet strangely familiar present, to the distant terrifying future!
I found this collection of 24 short stories set in the Asia-Pacific region to be the most satisfying anthology I have read in years, and it will stay with me for a long time. Here’s a brief rundown of tales that particularly caught my attention.
Three interesting stories address the unexplored power of memory, when human beings defy nature to remember, to forget, or to remember differently. Tabitha Sin’s Dreams, for instance, looks into the possibility of recreating a happy memory differently. Can sorrow be buried beneath a different memory of the past? This highly emotional piece highlights a unique bond in danger of being shaken by reality.
In contrast, In Memoriam by Fadzlishah Johanabas looks ahead, to a desired future where you may choose to forget. There is a stark contrast between the tale’s cold white setting and the main character’s burst of emotions. The non-linear narration took some getting used to, but after some flipping back and forth, it became fun.
The third story involving memory is Bright Student where author Terence Toh introduces a potion that allows the main character to magnify her memory’s capacity – in exchange for her shadow. Why do we need our shadows? And as someone who still has nightmares of sitting for examinations long after graduation, I can relate to the character’s desperation and understand her actions, starting with her strange encounter at KL’s Petaling Street.
Another trio that caught my attention are three Asian fairytales that unveil multiple facets of love among captivating characters. Kitsune by K.Z. Morano portrays the strong desire to hang on to love even at the cost of compromising the chance of a normal life. This haunting piece was inspired by Japanese folklore about the spirit of the fox.
Lola by Shenoa Carroll-Bradd is a heartbreaking account of a girl’s last day with her grandmother during the WWII Japanese occupation of the Philippines and how an encounter with a mythical creature leads to maturity and understanding. This one kept me thinking long after I finished reading.
In Moon Rabbit by Jo Wu, a character from Chinese mythology bravely leaps into modern times and attempts to fit in. It is simplicity and complexity rolled into one, and I could feel the loneliness, and then the contempt, of the moon rabbit.
I also liked these four stories set in post-apocalyptic worlds and futures. When The Rice Was Gone by Dominica Malcolm is set in a bleak South Korea where a last meal of bibimbab (“mixed rice”, rice topped with vegetables and proteins) brightens up the day. I was intrigued by how slowly the writer revealed the unusual relationships between the three main characters.
In No Name Island by Kawika Guillermo, the habitat on a primitive island is destroyed when man plays God, and fear pushes a character to entrust a loved one to a stranger. It was uplifting to see how the native girl character matures and accepts her destiny, yet clings to her heritage also.
In And Then It Rained by Rebecca Freeman, a single woman and child strive to make a life for themselves in a barren, frightening world – and then a dashing stranger walks in, bringing hope with him. The main character’s courage is admirable. And Operation Toba: 2049 by Kris Williamson addresses the beauty of second chances, and making tough decisions when the clock is racing. This is a fast and intense story of love and priorities.
I look forward to reading more works of fiction from all these writers, especially on a larger canvas.
- Amok: An Anthology Of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction is available as hard copy or an e-book from the Solarwyrm Press website: solarwyrm.com, or via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Solarwyrm Press is an independent publishing company that puts out quirky and left field books.