Heliotrope #2, April 2007

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“They Play in the Palace of My Dreaming” by Gerard Houarner
“Galatea” by Vylar Kaftan
“A Godmother’s Gift” by January Mortimer

Gerard Houarner’s “They Play in the Palace of My Dreaming” takes mysticism to a deep dark level. While reading it, I couldn’t help but think the main character, Carlos, should’ve listened to the common wisdom about the corrupting effect of power. But if the character had any simple common sense, there wouldn’t be a story, much less a story that teaches about the inherent danger of separating your self from your humanity. The biggest problem with Carlos is there isn’t much about him this reader could feel sympathy for; although, the lack of sympathy was balanced out with the sympathy felt for his family, all of whom end up as victims in one sense or another. Though Carlos, justifiably, gets his just desserts in the end, it is not in a way you would expect or even wish for. A tragic tale all around, and one well worth reading.

“They Play in the Palace of My Dreaming” builds slowly in a way character-based stories tend to do, but Houarner knows how to keep a reader reading. The climax is sudden and completely unexpected, yet is entirely within the character of the power-hungry Carlos. There are writers who write stories for the sake of entertainment, and then there are storytellers who understand what stories and myths are meant for. Gerard Houarner is both a writer and a storyteller.

“Galatea” by Vylar Kaftan requires a bit of effort on the reader’s part for the suspension of disbelief necessary for the enjoyment of a story. While there seems to be a meaningful theme behind the tale, it was too vague for this reader to fully catch. I think the plot had something to do with a city killing its inhabitants in bizarre ways much like a body’s immune system eliminates foreign elements—or something like that.

If you can imagine surrealistic fiction combined with literary techniques, then you have a good idea of what this tale has to offer. While characterization was good, it wasn’t exceptional. When handled well, I imagine such tales could leave you in tears from the sheer beauty of its telling. Unfortunately, this one only left me shrugging my shoulders.

“A Godmother’s Gift” by January Mortimer is another character-driven tale, and possibly the best of the three in this issue. While the ending is disturbing in the classic Frankenstein manner, the build-up to the climax leaves you feeling that perhaps it was the better course in a perverted sense. After all, oaths must be honored, and sacrifices are always required in the honoring of such oaths. But at the same time, this tale takes the right to life and the honor of oaths to a perverse extreme, and the only redemptive quality is the sympathy you feel for the characters involved in such tough choices due to drastic circumstances. The old saying, “You never know what you’ll do until you’re in the same situation,” applies in the situations found in “A Godmother’s Gift.” It’s certainly a story that will spark plenty of discussions.

Overall, if this second issue is any indication of the kinds of stories Heliotrope plans to be known by, it is worth checking out. However, I would suggest they offer more stories in each issue.