— August 2013

Note: This post was imported from an old content-management system, so please excuse any inconsistencies in formatting., August 2013

“Cayos in the Stream” by Harry Turtledove

“Warm Up” by V.E. Schwab
“Work Sets You Free” by David Barnett

Reviewed by Louis West.

“Cayos in the Stream,” by Harry Turtledove, is a fictionalized account of Ernest Hemingway’s life in Cuba during the early years of WW2. Driven but bored, Hemingway escapes into drink and raucous adventure while his third marriage disintegrates and Nazi subs hunt shipping in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. In real life, Hemingway did go U-boat hunting. In this story, he actually catches one.

For the Hemingway aficionado, this is probably a gold-mine of events and characterizations they can pour over and critique for hours. For me, I enjoyed Hemingway’s boisterous yet sometimes abrasive personality, his larger than-life presence and his haphazard, almost frenzied approach to both life and sub hunting, which I would describe as akin to catching a shark by dangling your legs overboard. Recommended, even though the editor missed several word and spelling errors.

In V.E. Schwab’s “Warm Up” David dies in an avalanche, then wakes up again, seemingly unharmed, but his touch now burns anything and everyone. He can’t warm up, he’s always cold, his wife leaves him taking the kids, and he holes up in his house for 297 days. When he finally gets his burning touch under control, he decides to go out and enjoy his evening . . . until an avenging angel executes him. (Warning: spoiler.) The end has no relationship to the rest of the story, it just randomly appears. The story never establishes any kind of foundation to even suggest that other forces are at work behind the scenes. Very disappointed in this and not recommended.

“Work Sets You Free,” by David Barnett, left me bemused. Gideon has left his village, Sandsend, to look for a hero to help his village deal with some kind of murky danger: Monsters from the sea? Blood-sucking evil? It’s left up to the reader’s imagination to discern exactly what the danger is. Traversing through 1890s England, Gideon finds himself bamboozled into a work house, laboring for an alleged religious order, digging coal for sale to industry driven by steam-power. Gideon tries to escape but is foiled. He tries again and eventually succeeds to continue his hunt for “the Hero of the Empire.” (Yeah, you guessed it: spoiler.)

Barnett is an award-winning journalist who has published several collections of stories. Hinterland, for example, is primarily dark mystery and horror along the lines of the TV series Tales from the Darkside.” “Work Sets You Free,” however, just didn’t work for me and doesn’t live up to the quality of his earlier work — I never cared for Gideon nor cared what happened to him.