||August 1, 2010
A set of short tales depicting the emotional journeys of beings who live challenged by a murky universe, sad memories or gripping desires. Unreal landscapes and an ever-present nostalgic atmosphere serve as backdrop to the unravelling of their fates.
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'Era of the Spectre' is a collection of eleven short stories and a poem, all of which phantasmagorical in tone and subject matter. Even though none of them can be justly pigeonholed as fantasy, science fiction or horror, there is certainly a lot of each genre in the compilation.
Most of the stories are bound to an atmosphere of utter negativity, made bearable only by the main characters' eventual choice to embrace their sadness and surrender to the whims of fate. Such is the powerlessness of the seamen in 'The Guiding-light of the Southern Sea', as well as the desperate outpouring that is 'Lucid Dreaming'.
The few brighter moments in this collection of private agonies are draped, nevertheless, in gloominess. I sense some eroticized optimism in the poem 'The Cold Burn', creepy though it can feel. As for 'Demise', I believe it is the only source of true, unhindered joy to be found in the compilation.
The Silent Lake
From out the great mist-bound lake a thousand islets stare at me, as I lay in the deepest sleep. I have entered the realm of That
which speaks not, yet Whose voice I often hear in soft ensnaring
tones as if uttered from my bedside. In this nether region, Its shadow spreads free, like the arrogant wings of some monstrous beast of yore.
I cannot tell whether I sleep or not. It is no longer possible for me to tell wakefulness from slumber, as both are wasted in
the frenzy of this turbulent nightmare.
Each islet bears a single dead tree, not stripped but crowned with brown decaying leaves. Air would never breathe upon their stems, were it not for the tranquil passage of the cold mist,
whirling slowly around the countless earthy spots that skewer the water.
It is foolish to try and find one's way in the lake, even though each tree is unique in appearance and likewise in spirit. I
believe the islets to be ever in motion, an imperceptible crawl inducing the most dreadful dizziness, giddying me as I peer within the silent shadows, and numbing my sense of orientation to a useless stupor.
Era of the Spectre by Rui Cruz reviewed on Fantasy Book Review
A journey through the darker emotions of the mind.
Image: Era of the Spectre book cover Review by Ryan Lawler
Era of the Spectre is a collection of twelve short stories written by Rui Cruz and published by Midnight Showcase Fiction in 2010. The piece is very much a collection of character studies, exploring the ways in which different characters deal with themes such as isolation, hopelessness, fear and death. These themes can be quite dark and may not be to everyone’s taste, but if you are game there are rewards to be found.
This collection tries to take the reader on a journey through the darker emotions of the mind, from the Harbinger of Chaos lamenting the purpose of his existence in Lucid Dreaming, to the ever growing despair from living in complete isolation in The Silent Lake, and finally the discovery of an unexplained brightness despite all the darkness in Peace. The unique exploration of dark themes by individual characters is a major strength of this collection and is central to each story, however, the pacing and plot can sometimes suffer when too much focus is placed on character development
Weird Chronicle, The Guiding Light of the Southern Sea, and His Was the Foreboding are by far the strongest stories in this collection, with The Damned and The Angels No Longer Weep deserving of honourable mentions. For me, the weak link in this collection is The Gifted; a well written story exploring the complex relationship between a boy and his sister, but completely out of place when considered in context with the rest of the collection.
This is the first published book for Cruz and it is a well written and accomplished piece. The dark and foreboding atmosphere is unrelenting throughout the story this can sometimes make these stories hard to get into. Despite the dark nature of this book and the issues with pacing and plot, the characters that have been created and the emotions they explore are quite remarkable and certainly make this book worth reading.
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