REVIEW: Various Novellas That Caught My Fancy
I read a lot of novellas or stories that are even shorter than that. Torquere, for instance, regularly puts out stories that are 10 pages, or 20, or 30, but I don’t bother requesting them because how could I justify a review? But I figure if I review 3-4 shorts in one post, then I wouldn’t have to try to say too much about a short story and I could review more of them. Because I very much enjoy short little stories I can read in one sitting. When they’re done right.
So here goes:
“Vampire’s Prisoner” by Scarlet Blackwell. Torquere Press. $2.99. 61 pages.
Alex Somerville is a thoroughly unpleasant individual in late Victorian England who wants fame and fortune from writing a paper about vampires, so buys one from a newspaper ad. The vampire, Rafael LeFevre arrives caged but damaged, having been exposed to the sun on his captive journey. Alex feeds the vampire blood from a supply from the local medical college and watches while he gets better. He falls heavily in lust, despite fucking his servant Jonathan rather comprehensively. Rafael seduces him, tops him, comprehensively fucks him…and the rest is for the story to tell. Alex is an asshole, Rafael is inscrutable, Jonathan has depth that is never explored. The sex is hot and consciously tinged with class-based D/s that could be much hotter if its implications were fully explored. But the ending is unsatisfying precisely because it feels truncated. Short stories or novellas are difficult to get right, and this is an example of a story that should have been longer. Although it’s probably worth $3 for the hot, D/s-inflected sex.
“Cellmate” by Rachel West. Dreamspinner Press. $3.99. 75 pages.
I was intrigued by the premise of “The Cellmate”: Andy’s first night in jail for drunk driving is unexpectedly interrupted by his cellmate entering his bed and having sex with him. It’s not rape because Jesse explicitly asks and Andy explicitly agrees. But Jesse claims he’s not gay until he tells Andy the reason he’s in jail in the first place: he pled guilty to raping the man who had actually date-raped him (it’s complicated and well-explained in the story). Andy and Jesse fall in love, have a grand old time in jail with a magically-replenishing stash of condoms, until Jesse’s released. Andy then magically makes up with everyone in the whole world, finally gets out himself and he and Jesse live HEA. For some completely messed up reason, I like prison stories, especially m/m prison. And while I know that they’re complete fantasies, I like them to be a LITTLE more true to life than this. The fact that they’re in jail with the privations and loss of privacy is never really dealt with in any realistic way. When he tells his story, Andy reveals himself to be an utter asshole and I couldn’t really find it in me to wish him an HEA, let alone the ending he does receive. Yes, he realized the error of his ways, etc., but the unbelievability of the ending (prisoners can’t earn money from anything they produce while in prison, for example, and sentences like his are rarely commuted, no matter what the victim says) stretched my willingness to believe in anything else the story was trying to sell me.
“The Bank Job” by Lisa Worrall. Dreamspinner Press. $2.99. 45 pages.
Rob is discontented with his life. He’s stuck in a dead end job as a bank teller in Wilmington. The only bright spot is his new boyfriend. On just another day at work, his bank is held up by a robber who not only successfully robs all the people and the bank, but also finds time to fuck Rob senseless. This is a cute little story but could be much cuter in execution in the hands of a more skilled writer. There’s a lot of telling, not showing, and a lot of pointless dialogue that could be a little more sparkling. I enjoyed the idea and some of the writing, but could see it being more well-written.
Like I said, short stories/novellas are difficult to pull off right. They’re an opportunity to play around with some cool plot bunnies that might not work in a longer story. But still, difficult to do right.
Editorial note: I swear that the image associated with The Bank Job is what appears on the Dreamspinner website.