and Other Stories
by Aiden Moher
25 Words or Less:
A small collection of science fiction and fantasy short stories by the editor of the Hugo Award-winning speculative fiction blog, A Dribble of Ink.
It’s a nice, solid piece of sci-fi art in my opinion. Gives a classic style and professional look to the book.
Formatting, Grammar & Spelling:
Professional, aside from an odd-looking text break; no errors noted; American English.
I’ve only read A Dribble of Ink on a couple of occasions, each time being impressed by the writing, but these were essays or articles, not fiction, and included other contributors than Moher himself. Here I’m a little sad to say that I found the writing a bit florid, delivering a functional if pedestrian text while repeatedly resorting to lyric flourishes of the rosy-fingered dawn sort. Not bad, but far from outstanding by any means, and the cover quote I see on Amazon (“Delightful!” says Brian Staveley, author of The Emperor’s Blades, so I think I’ll do him next) seems generous in my opinion.
Characterisation & Dialogue:
The sample only contains part of the first story, and two significant characters. The first, an unnamed narrator, embodies the gradual reveal mode so at this early point we know little of him except that he is the survivor of at least two battles, one of those through cowardice. We also enter the headspace of a man who is presented as a fallen ally, “Dandelion”, a foppish fighter who comes to a sticky end. There is no actual dialogue, but both points of view are essentially monologues so in that sense it’s all dialogue; and it works on the whole.
Was I enticed by the story so far? Maybe. To be honest, and somewhat like the writing style, the snippet of story contained in the sample struck me as a bit fantasy generic. A warrior digs a grave after a terrible battle, the first of four to be dug we are told, and then introduces us to the body about to go in. Then the text breaks to the point of view of the now dead man in the moments before his throat was cut – which is sort of fine, but makes me wonder if the rest of the story is going to repeat this format, setting up the dead so we can see them die again.
The story then goes into part 2, back with the digging man as he thinks about his old master, who was once cut down by an enemy who claimed his shield; but that master is not the one being buried now, and that shield has subsequently been reclaimed… and the sample ends.
It’s sort of fine, but I wasn’t all that thrilled to be honest. The welcome dear reader foreword used up a page or so of valuable space that may have been put to better use giving up more story; it struck me as a bit indulgent, something that avid fans of the now closed website may well lap up, but which the random reader (like myself) doesn’t really need to see.
I’m going to call the shot here: that our narrator is the one who offed the throat-slit dandy, and probably the other three bodies still to come. It just feels like that kind of story, and the gaps between the points of view suggest preparation for a twist. That’s my guess anyway.
Writers and editors can be different entities, but they can inhabit the same one body as well. The grim, sometime truth is that writers who edit themselves often… don’t, at least not as effectively as they might do the work of someone else. In this case, these are stories the author admits have lived long in his proverbial trunk, those that kept pulling at his attention down the years… yet not stories that were picked up elsewhere. Perhaps that is a telling fact.
Tide of Shadows seems a workmanlike effort, not a must-buy, but something I would pick up and give over an afternoon to if it caught my eye on discount day.
= Technicalities =
Title: Tide of Shadows
Author: Aiden Moher
Publisher: A Dribble of Ink
Price: $2.99 (Sept 2015)