Thursday, July 5, 2012

Review: YOU WILL MEET A STRANGER FAR FROM HOME by Alex Jeffers (Lethe Press)

I came across Alex Jeffers quite by accident earlier this year, and having just completed his short story collection You Will Meet A Stranger Far From Home, I'm glad to say the accident was a happy one!  As I've said before, I thoroughly enjoy singe author short story collections because they are such a great way to introduce myself to an author I am unfamiliar with, sort of like a meeting for coffee to get to know someone you've just met.  And You Will Meet A Stranger... is definitely a great first date. 

Wheat, Barely, Lettuce, Fennel, Blood for Sorrow, Salt for Joy, besides being quite the mouthful of a title, is a beautifully written story that blends ancient myth with familial relationships and youthful romance.  Young Luke goes on a sailing trip with his father and stepmother and meets the beautiful Levent, a young Adonis that works on the boat.  A lovely opener to the collection.

The Arab's Prayer  is a story of two lovers caught between culture and politics and their devotion to one another.  I liked this piece very much and felt for the character of Mus'ad and sympathized with his conflict...

Then We Went There starts off as a tale of bullying and the young man who acts to stop it, then transforms itself into a story of magic and the mysterious Court of the Air.  While I did enjoy the story, I wish it would have been a longer piece, further exploring the world of the Court.  Perhaps Jeffers will return to that world someday...

The next two entries were my favorites in the collection and I'm combining them here since they share a main character, the merchant Haider.  Firooz and his Brother introduces us to the infant Haider, when the young man Firooz comes upon him abandoned in a wood, save for a mysterious black dog.  Haider becomes the brother and sometime lover of Firooz and it is through that love that Haider gives Firooz the ultimate gift.  In  Haider and his Dog we follow Haider and his constant companion Iman the black dog to another world where they are strangers in a strange land and looked upon with superstition.  Here, they come upon a seemingly deserted city,only to find something deadly waiting for them.  These two tales reminded me instantly of the early work of Tanith Lee.  I could breath and taste the worlds that Jeffers created in these two short pieces and again, I hope he explores further the adventures of Haider and Iman, for I felt the two stories here bookended which has to be a wealth of tales.  

Turning tells the story of the prostitute Serkan, bitter and with no family...until the day the cousin who wronged him comes back into his life.  I was entertained but felt the denouement came too abruptly.

Jannicke's Cat is straight science fiction.  In it, in a world where female children are no longer born, one of the last women in the world comes across an old childhood toy and her memories drive her to show her family the world that came before them.  The story started slowly for me but as it progressed, the pace picked up and I wound up enjoying it.

Liam and the Wild Fairy is another tale of a boy that doesn't fit in at school but not only does Liam have two dads, he also is a special boy with a special secret.  It is a gem of a story and the love between Liam and his father really brought a lump to my throat!

Ban's Dream of the Sea tells the story of Banto and the strange, amorous dreams that are affecting the citizens of the his city.  People are having dreams of beautiful, otherworldly lovers and then disappearing.  And now his sister is missing...Jeffers intertwines the story of Banto with the journal entries of a long ago admiral experiencing he same mystery and it makes for a very atmospheric tale.

Tattooed Love Boys close the collection with a bang, y'all!  It is a tale of beautiful boys, fluid sexuality and getting inked.  Emma and her insecure brother Theo are on vacation with their parents when they come upon a local boy named Raf and his tattoo shop; what follows is a tale of transformation and strange desires, gender swapping and magic and it is a mind bending tale indeed!

You Will Meet A Stranger Far From Home is a pleasure to read from start to finish and Alex Jeffers is a talented writer.  Fans of weird and speculative fiction will find something to delight in on every page and it is also a great find for readers of short, well written story collections.  Highly recommended!

Happy reading!


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