Genre: Science Fantasy, Physiological Horror, Space Opera, Soft Sci fi, Eldritch Sci fi, Secondary World/Urban Fantasy
LGBTQ+ Category: Ace, Gay, Lesbian, Non-Binary, Trans FTM
About The Book
“Pain is pain. It all hurts the same.”
Inflicted with dark desire, one man chooses between idyllic pretense and disturbing reality. Haunted by the silence of deep space, an engineer chases an eerie melody. Torn between penance and pride, a dishonored prince challenges the course of history.
Suffering cracks our hearts and splinters our minds. It scars and alters us in irreversible ways. Yet while pain breaks us apart, it also binds us together. Our broken pieces can never rejoin as they once were, but they fit together to create new and distinctive wholes. Like the Japanese art of kintsugi, we can fill the velvety darkness of our scars with gold.
Inflicted with life, an intelligent machine questions the illogic of family. Tempted by the desire to die, a shop clerk confronts the promise of his life. Offered the chance to transform his disfigurement, a ruined being looks to the smallest of lives for acceptance.
An amalgamation of science fiction and fantasy subgenres, Inflicted invites you to peer into your own pain, examine your scars, and remember you are not alone. Pain binds us all, and how we face our brokenness redefines us. Immerse yourself in the brokenness of others and come away with a new understanding of self.
Leo Otherland’s Inflicted: Explorative Tales of What Breaks and Binds Us provides an emotional roller coaster into the realms of horror, speculative, and science fiction. Otherland packs “a lot” into each story contained in this collection. I use the ambiguous “a lot” to mean a lot of feelings, power, dread, hopes, fears, intensity, and longings. Each tale brings a unique world and experience, and none of them disappoint.
Doing a complete summary of the stories would take too much space without adequately conveying their meaning. Instead, I encourage you to pick up Inflicted and read them for yourself. You will find lovers with secret passions suddenly exposed to their partner, ghosts aboard space ships, and the fantasy world of royalty. And artificial intelligence makes an appearance, along with mandatory reaping. There is also the problem of colonization and escape. You get the picture, of an eclectic band of short stories, all well written, with a depth of substance hard to obtain in the short format.
As an intense, intriguing, and beautiful addition, the stories come with amazing artwork by Zu. They force you to linger on the image, contemplating its meaning and relationship to Otherland’s stories. At first, I wanted to move to the next story quickly to keep reading. But Zu traps you for a moment, much the same as the tales, with art that haunts and conveys emotion as powerful as the words on the page.
Don’t think the diversity of venues and approaches or inclusion of artwork means the collection is void of a binding principle, because Otherland has themes woven throughout. The characters often wonder about the meaning of being alive and human(?). The people grope to find solid ground in a fast changing and bewildering universe. Blood becomes a means of releasing emotion and finding a way to feel. Dark secrets lurk, only to be exposed. As the subtitle suggests, Otherland in this way explores what breaks people, and at the same time what pulls them together.
Otherland begins the stories with an introduction, by way of telling you the theme(s) he envisioned to coalesce the collection into one volume. I hesitate to make this suggestion, because I realize it defies the will of the author in placing this at the beginning. But the more I thought about the matter, the more I think you might want to skip the introduction, read the stories first, and then go back and read the introduction as an afterward. This approach would allow you a more raw delving into the characters and their experiences, without the context and meaning being thrown at you from the onset. I mean this to say, the power of these tales is so strong that I want them alone, without the intrusion of the real world and its problems, until I have digested the engrossing narratives of each story.
Leo Otherland’s Inflicted, accompanied by Zu’s art, gives consequence to the often overlooked or dismissed feelings of brokenness, longing, despair, and at the same time connection, love and survival.
Damian Serbu lives in the Chicago area with his husband and two dogs, Akasha and Chewbacca. The dogs control his life, tell him what to write, and threaten to eat him in the middle of the night if he disobeys. He has published several speculative fiction/horror novels with NineStar Press. Keep up to date with him on Facebook, Twitter, or at www.DamianSerbu.com.