March 12, 2010

Review -- "Illusion," by Edmond Cheng

Hong Kong businessman Thomas, his wife Karen, his best friend Jonathan, and Jonathan's wife Helen slip through Edmond Cheng's "Illusion" on the twisting track of a narrative that encompasses mayhem, murder, ghosts, and visions. "Illusion" itself is a novella included in the Unearthed anthology produced by Midnight Showcase Fiction.

The story is told from Thomas' perspective in a manner that never quite lets the reader get a firm footing under the tale. Is he telling the truth? Is he capable of telling the truth? Is he hero or villain? Cheng introduces a few bizarre but entertaining metaphors on thinking that sync with the reader's experience of the text, such as describing thoughts tumbling in a mental washing machines as images try to sort themselves into a coherent narrative.

I enjoyed the interplay between Thomas and Jonathan, whose friendship since childhood served as a hinge for the plot. Mr. Cheng's use of names was also interesting--he himself is a native speaker of Chinese who is writing in English, so his generational divide between "Americanized" names and Asian names is a first indication of the melding of cultures in this novella. This same cultural interplay seemed to also be taking place within the supernatural elements of the story. I had the impression that I was missing some of the significance of what Thomas was experiencing because of this, particularly in the segments dealing with his religious experiences. These experiences produced an odd undertone among the dense supernatural imagery of the narrative.

Given the twisty narratives of mystery fiction, I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of an editorial hand to allow for quicker comprehension. While the story provided an impetus for continued reading, the confusing grammar and uneven point of view and sentence structure hampered my enjoyment of this story. I would recommend that in the future, Midnight Showcase pass anthologies by an editor first.

Happy reading,

Supernatural Fairy Tales thanks Mr. Cheng for providing us with the review copy from which this review was prepared.

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