Strength of Water

Strength of Water by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy is a strange, compelling, and disorienting novella about sweeping changes–good, bad, and transcendent. 

The story is loosely divided into three sections. The first is our inside-the-skull introduction to the two main characters, and the circumstances of their lives. The second is a tear in the fabric of the universe and a peek at the mechanics of the world. The third is a glimpse of liberation.

In the end I was left at the edge of a cliff and wanting to know what happened next–a very good thing.

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Strength of WaterStrength of Water tells the interwoven stories of Sati and Satyan, two young adults with a haunting, shared desire: to try on another’s form, and to experience the benefits that come from it. 

Their story unfolds at a Bangalorean university in 1999, against a background of liberties and civil rights being stripped away with increasing vigor. The dreamy, stream-of-consciousness narrative moves seamlessly between the two characters as they consider their individual reasons, pains, and growing fears. The society around Sati and Saytan is contracting. The threats are growing closer to home. 

Sati is driven to protect herself and her family, and has embraced mythic and metaphysical options. Satyan is estranged from his own family, discontented and unanchored, and looking for an escape. He is ready when Sati’s drive becomes action, and fulfills their wishes in an extraordinary way.

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Satyamurthy’s moody, lyrical prose and smoothly blended perspectives turn an odd premise into a thoughtful exploration. Strength of Water reminded me strongly of Geoff Ryman’s The Warrior Who Carried Life, with its transformations and heroic quest. And the unexpected leap of an ending did more than make me want to know more about the characters. It makes me want to go back, and read their story over again. 

 

Creep Throat

Creep Throat: Sex Fables for the Horny, Gloomy, and Unhinged, edited by Viorika La Vae, is a surprising, uneven, and entertaining little anthology. Its ten stories and single poem are a roller coaster of style and mood, with the stories ranging from simply goofy, to overwrought, to brilliant. There is a touch of cyberpunk, a hint of the gothic, and even a call-back to the slick pulp horror of the seventies and eighties. Taken together, they make for an unexpectedly engaging read.

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My favorites here are:                                                                                          

“Lust and Death in 2045” by Melanie Sage Thibodeaux is a moody and evocative piece that firmly binds together sex and death in something that feels like one of the better indie horror movies. It’s gritty and brutal, conveying desperation and decay without being over the top.                               

“Gear Head” by Duane Pesice tells a sharp, hallucinogenic tale of the cybernetic skin trade. The descriptions are tactile and disorienting, the plot a stream of garbled consciousness. It is weird and wonderful, with the extra added uncertainty of what is experiencing who. 

“Lady Luck” by Eve Kerrigan and Ben Keefe reminded me, with its fast pace, glitzy setting, and snarky characterizations, of the cheesy beach books on spinner racks at the drugstore. I mean that with great fondness. The monster is wildly bizarre, while sex is background noise here–part of the set-up but not a big part of the resulting chaos.                                      

“At Lazio’s: A Tale of the Crawling Chaos” by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy is a variation on a classic tale of vampirism, beautifully told. The story ended up more or less where I thought it would, but was a joy to read with its terse, perfect descriptions and the lovely line, “…for me it’s about the kill, not the chase”.   

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So, while the stories collected in Creep Throat weren’t always to my taste, overall the anthology is a solid read. The authors are a talented bunch, and there is a good balance between the ridiculous, the serious, and the sublime. I’d say it’s definitely worth a look.