Echoes Of The Arcane: A Collection Of Short Fiction by Cody D. Campbell (e-book review).

‘Echoes of the Arcane’ by Cody D. Campbell has 20 stories over 183 pages, so many of them are shorter shorts, snippets, and even poems. However, there are enough proper stories to sink your teeth into, and even the briefest have value.

‘Little Bugs’ are shiny, like a dime that has gone through the wash in your pocket. The government men said they were tiny robots that would eat the poison in the woods and turn it into fertiliser. Meanwhile, people had to stay out of the woods. Years later, when it’s safe, Joni goes back in and remembers Grandpa, who wouldn’t listen to the government men.

It’s refreshing to have a story about a janitor, one of those people who does mundane, dirty, and necessary tasks. In ‘Clean Slate’, you get the work history of Terrance Meeks, from school to hotel to secret government buildings where he works for a billionaire space tycoon. It’s a little gem of yarn.

‘Glamour’ is the tale of a lady vampire told from the point of view of her servant. It nicely demonstrates that evil is most chilling with cool, matter-of-fact narration.

In ‘Here and Gone’, a home transporter is the latest must-have appliance for those who are doing well. However, a writer who typed on an old Remington Royal is wary of new technology, even though his wife loves it. This reminded me of ‘Spock Must Die’ by James Blish, the first original ‘Star Trek’ novel in which Dr. McCoy expresses philosophical reservations about the transporter. It also echoes the Asimov story, ‘It’s Such a Beautiful Day,’ but this is a different take on the notion. I expect someone will invent a transporter when we all work from home and don’t need one.

‘Ghosts in the Drywall’ is a variation of the haunted house theme. Two brothers work on renovating their deceased parents’ home. A frank look at sibling relationships bolsters a well-plotted drama.

‘A Draft for Rejection’ is an amusing piece that will strike a chord with writers everywhere. Even if you have a cauldron, the ingredients will be hard to source.

The ‘Dream Catcher’ is a doll made from metal hoops and waxed twine by Georgette, sold at a Steve Miller concert to a woman named Clementine and given to her nephew Julian for his birthday. This odd, touching fantasy sits on his windowsill and follows his dreams.

‘Bones of the Giant’ is a gentle post-apocalyptic tale about Tick, who sleeps inside the rusted metal exoskeleton of a giant robot, one of those massive steel men who once walked the Earth. She’s alone because her brother has left on a mission but should return. I didn’t quite believe the last part of this, but it was very sweet.

‘Last of the Legion’ is a historical fantasy set during the fall of Rome, when the Vandals sacked the city. Hadrian, a centurion in charge of the city guard, does his best to defend his home. He tells a tale during the lull before the storm, which neatly ties into his later adventures when he encounters a deadly, fantastic creature. Hadrian is a sympathetic character and almost makes you forget that Roman civilization was built on genocide, slaughter, slavery, brutality, and fear. It wasn’t all toga parties.

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection. Campbell’s prose is easy to read, sophisticated, and literary without being dense. In places, it has an air of Ray Bradbury, but there is also wit and humour. The characters are well-rounded, the plots make sense, and the stories reach a conclusion. This edition doesn’t give information on previous publications, but some of these have received good notices and honourable mentions in competitions. It’s definitely worth a look.

Eamonn Murphy

April 2024

(pub: Wraithwood Press, 2024. 183 page 3256kB ebook. Price: £ 7.99 (UK), $ 9.99 (US). ASIN: B0CW1FXL7V.

check out website: https://wraithwoodpress.com/

Eamonn Murphy

Eamonn Murphy reviews books for sfcrowsnest and writes short stories now and then. Website: https://eamonnmurphywriter298729969.wordpress.com/

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