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The Ink Readers of Doi Saket

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People send their dreams and wishes floating down the Mae Ping River with the hope that those dreams will be captured, read and come true. It is a surprise what some wish for and why. One can never know what's inside someone's heart - what they really truly want, and those dreams sometimes reveal our true selves.

32 pages, ebook

First published April 24, 2013

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About the author

Thomas Olde Heuvelt

41 books2,075 followers
Thomas Olde Heuvelt (1983) is the international bestselling author of HEX. The much-praised novel was published in over twenty-five countries around the world and is currently in development for TV by Gary Dauberman. Olde Heuvelt, whose last name in Dutch dialect means “Old Hill,” was the first ever translated author to win a Hugo Award for his short story "The Day the World Turned Upside Down".

His new novel ECHO will be out with Nightfire Books in the US and Hodder & Stoughton on February 8, 2022. International publication of his novel ORACLE, which topped all the bestseller charts in The Netherlands in March '21, will follow soon thereafter.

Thomas lives in The Netherlands and the south of France and is an avid mountaineer.

Praise for HEX:

“This is totally, brilliantly original.” —Stephen King

“Creepy and gripping and original.” ―George R.R. Martin

“Spielbergian in the way Olde Heuvelt shows supernatural goings-on in the midst of everyday life... It’s a fabulous, unforgettable conceit and Olde Heuvelt makes the most of it.” ―The Guardian

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5 stars
42 (9%)
4 stars
117 (26%)
3 stars
181 (41%)
2 stars
78 (17%)
1 star
20 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 72 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,976 reviews170k followers
April 9, 2021
In his frenzy, Uan had forgotten all about the general consensus around the ancient fertility symbol. The adulterous rice peeler Somchai had once cheated on her husband with three neighbors and a shopkeeper from a nearby village after she had been spotted on the phallic altar, touching herself and wrapped in nothing but silk ribbons. As a penalty, Somchai was buried waist deep in the rice field so that her excess fertility could seep into the crops, and it was decided that the bewitched phallus was never to be touched again, and was only to be greeted by passersby with a brief nod of the head, something that was ardently copied by the villagers and which consequently led to an abundance of oral sex. (There were rumors that the stone was not in fact bewitched at all, but that lustful Somchai suffered from some type of obsessive exhibitionism. Nonsense, of course.)


this story was okay, which is pretty much how i felt about this author’s other free tor short (You Know How the Story Goes), and his novel (Hex), which got an extra star from me for the sheer whackadooishness of its ending.

this one is set, inexplicably, in thailand, and is a strange tonal mishmash of melancholy, humor, and eroticism. at its core, there lurks a really great story about wishes, manufactured miracles and coincidence, but the tongue-in-cheek humor of it watered down its emotional impact and made it read more silly than affecting.

it’s also frontloaded with NINE footnotes translating/explaining the meaning of various characters’ names, a distraction which is abandoned a few paragraphs in, making the reader’s entry into the story a very ragged journey instead of a hook to the mouth.

i’m not sure whether to award or deduct points to the story for forever searing into my brain the image of a dragonfly ejaculating, but either way, it’s now a part of me.

read it for yourself here:


come to my blog!
Profile Image for David.
Author 18 books333 followers
July 4, 2014
A strange little story, whimsical and tragic and comic all at once. Doi Saket is a tiny Thai village that benefits from the annual Loi Krathong festival, in which people from Chiang Mai and all over northern Thailand send wishes downriver in the form of little floating lanterns. The villagers of Doi Saket have begun collecting the money and other gifts included with these lanterns, believing that they are granting the wishes written therein.

It turns out that the "wish-granting" is a conspiracy among some corrupt monks, but that's not the point of the story. Rather, it's more like a "butterfly effect" story - one thing causes another thing to happen which triggers another series of events, and after being treated to the wishes and aspirations of everyone mentioned by name, we see karma come due for everyone in some fashion or another.

Is it fantasy? Well, some things happen that could hardly be explained by anything short of supernatural intervention, and in fact, a goddess does briefly appear.

The plot winds and meanders, like the river it is centered on. The images and sounds of the Thai village are easily imagined; the people are practical, vulgar, high-minded or depressed, kind or venial, like any assortment of villagers, all wishing for something, and the punchline is how those wishes are granted.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,509 reviews187 followers
December 15, 2016
#11 short story read in personal short story challenge. Found on tor.com.

Weird, kind of funny, kind of sad, odd little story that takes place in a Thai village.
The cover art is beautiful (same artist who created the image for Ann Aguirre's Foundation, found on the same website.)
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,230 reviews1,005 followers
December 11, 2014
An irreverent tale of a festival of wishes; and what may or may not happen to make those wishes come true. It had some good elements, but overall I didn't find the Thai setting convincing, and the tone felt like a mainstream writer trying his hand at a fantastic tale. (From his bio, it doesn't seem that he does write mainstream fiction; but that was my impression.) Mostly, I think his particular brand of satirical humor just isn't for me - it probably will be more to others' taste.

Edit: 12/11/14
Re-read for my book club, and I liked it better on a second reading. (maybe I was just more in the mood...) The author is clearly inspired by a certain style of Asian folk tale (it reminded me of some traditional Japanese stories I've read), but has updated the format for a modern age, pointing out both the venal foibles and the potential transcendence of humanity.
Profile Image for Rachael.
480 reviews84 followers
August 8, 2022
Okaaayy... that was weird. Good weird or bad weird? I can't decide. It's alright for a freebie found on the Tor website though. Maybe it would have been better if it was set in Thailand and written by a Thai author.
Profile Image for Tria.
633 reviews75 followers
July 30, 2014
No. Just... no. This barely feels like a story at all, just bits and pieces spliced together with unnecessarily frequent and repetitive phrases and adjectives that feel - as a writer myself, albeit not one who does it to earn money - very much like the writer's trying to eke out enough words to reach a minimum word count. It feels clumsy, awkward and forced.

I also have to wonder why the author chose to set the story in Thai culture when he himself is apparently Dutch. That, too, feels like something of an excuse to use a certain kind of style. The story is more convoluted than it needs to be for its length, and feels overly contrived.

On top of this, there seem to be unnecessarily sexist and (somewhat less frequently) ableist undertones sprinkled throughout. I'm not sure if the author is trying to portray that as being part of the culture he attempts to write here, but either way I found those references quite uncomfortable.

1 star - maybe 1.5, but rounded down to 1 anyway. I will definitely not be voting for this one in its Hugo nomination category, and I have to wonder how it got in at all... sorry, fans!
Profile Image for Nancy O'Toole.
Author 16 books52 followers
June 28, 2014
The Ink Readers of Doi Saket is a fable-like story about wishes that takes place in Thailand. This is typically a story that would mesh very well with me, especially given the high quality of the writing, but in all honesty, I had a hard time connecting with it. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the story seems to wander around a lot in the beginning, before getting more focused in the end. Or, it could have been that I found all of the footnotes distracting. Either way, I just didn't click with this one, making it my least favorite of the short stories nominated for the Hugo Awards this year. It's well written, but not for me (Hugo Reading)
Profile Image for Jay.
422 reviews21 followers
April 11, 2017
A charming and beautiful short about wishes, similar in tone to the films of Jeunet/Caro. Whimsical and, at points, melancholy, this portrait of a community focused on granting wishes and the strange ways this happens will probably leave you with a smile.
Profile Image for Ariya.
497 reviews62 followers
December 28, 2015
I am a Thai reader accustomed to Northern norms and so much intrigued by this short story because it's about Northern Thai folklore set place in a small village on Doi Saket, Chiang Mai written by a completely foreign writer.

The story happened on Loi Kra Tong festival days where people in the faraway village, called themselves 'the Ink Readers' (what the fuck does it mean?) had purposes to collect Kratongs floating in the downriver, and looked into the wishes granted by people, or in the short story, literally "every one" in Chiang Mai in order to achieve what has been written in a small paper folded in the Lotus leaves.

After that, the story is spiraling down into the deeper details in granting all wishes which actually results in the corrupted mind of the soul, especially the monks. In the whole picture, this story is alluded to the false(?) Northern Thai mythology. I never heard that Pra Mae Kong Ka whose originality is Hinduism, not Buddhism, gets drown by humans. And to redeem their guilt, people have to float Kra Tong on the day she dies. More over, it contains Exoticism to enchant the elements of supernatural in the exotic place (but PLEASE, Doi Saket is a tourist attraction! there's no such a mystery for anything about rural people living in the mountain making the sacred ritual and called themselves anything but the Ink Reader) and to make the story vivid and alienate the reader from the actual event of the real people.

Two stars for
1) A well-written prose. I appreciate the writer who masters English even it's not their first language.
2) The religion criticism. There's a scene when a boy asks a monk the question about their traditional ritual, with the third person narrative, the monk is consumed by greed. He usually explains things in the religious view just to keep everything "flow and simple", like the river. He thinks no one literally questions any action and consequence regards to their belief. Besides what they are told to do, nothing matters. The writer at least knows something about the subversion in Thai culture.
Profile Image for Venus Maneater.
573 reviews31 followers
October 12, 2018
A cute short story about wishes. They are granted in a wave of accidents and flukes and coincidence and it all starts with death.
Profile Image for Courtney.
977 reviews32 followers
February 20, 2017
I wanted to like this, it had potential but I couldn't get past the way it was written. The prose is pretty, but it's non-linear...where is the pretty prose going?
Profile Image for Daniel Burton.
406 reviews86 followers
September 27, 2014
So, this story is something different. And, for some reason, it's a Hugo nominee, too.

Near the end of the Mae Ping River in Thailand, a town plays a special role in an annual ritual that runs river long. Villagers will put their wishes in floating down river in paper boats and hope that they will be answered. In Doi Saket, the villagers will be led to read those wishes.

Told scattered and piece meal in the voice of an omniscient, native story teller, the disparate pieces come together to create a coherent whole. The reader can expect a twist, some loss, but also, a happy ending. The good guy is redeemed, and the bad guy gets it.

But still, something different is here, and I think it's in the voice. Thomas Olde Heuvelt has written an interesting story, and with an interesting voice, but still...it's just kind of odd. In some respect, it may be due to my expectations, and I think if I read this as a fable rather than as science fiction or fantasy, I might have enjoyed it differently. But Huevelt can't seem to make up his mind. Maybe that's okay. But it kept me from enjoying it more.
Profile Image for Norman Cook.
1,375 reviews13 followers
April 22, 2014
I read this story because it was nominated for the Hugo Award. The fantasy elements could have been eliminated and the story would still have worked. It is a tale of the interactions and seeming coincidences that we all experience. The prose is fluid. One distraction, though, is that the author footnotes the meanings of most of the Thai names in the story, which I thought was unnecessary. Overall, a sweet little story.
Profile Image for Ctgt.
1,410 reviews83 followers
March 3, 2016
A Hugo nominated short based on the Thai festival of Loi Krathong. On the full moon of the 12th month, the Thai people launch their krathong, as well as a wish, on a river or other body of water. A look at just how far some local religious leaders will go to keep the idea of divine intervention intact.
Profile Image for Amy.
709 reviews9 followers
November 11, 2013
Very uplifting story about wishes, consequences, connections, and coincidences. I enjoyed this much more than his Hugo-nominated story "The Boy Who Cast No Shadow."
Profile Image for Ian.
158 reviews
July 11, 2014
My favourite of the short stories on this year's Hugo shortlist, not that that is saying a lot.
Profile Image for Lori.
593 reviews4 followers
July 8, 2017
What a disappointment! After reading HEX, I thought I had found a new wonderful writer and was eager to read any of his other works. Unfortunately this short story totally missed the mark for me. I think I get the purpose of this story?????? Everyone has wishes of something better (yes even Tangmoo) and the desires either come true or not. If they come true, the person credits that their wish came true because of the rituals of Loi Krathong. When in reality many of the wishes come true because of fate, coincidence or hard work. It is an interesting concept of how human nature attaches more meaning or spiritual meaning to everyday events. And also how the monks use this superstition to their advantage.
But the story is choppy, filled with all kinds of superfluous and random thoughts. Really didn't enjoy it at all. 👎
Profile Image for Netanella.
4,217 reviews12 followers
May 11, 2019
I saw this was Hugo nominated for its category. It's a beautifully written short story of a Korean village during a festival of lights that contain within the lantern the wishes of the owner. A corrupt group of monks at the nearby temple have taken to profiting off the festival however. The story meanders slowly like the river within it, and ultimately karma has the last word.
Profile Image for Sanne.
495 reviews3 followers
March 6, 2022
As dark as this story gets in places, I absolutely loved it. It was a short but emotional piece and works really well. I'm especially taken with the way wishes are fulfilled at the end, which was the best outcome.
5 reviews
May 19, 2019
It was an accidental purchase from a book fair but I was so amazed. It could be because I didn't read much from Netherlands authors but it was so good still.
Profile Image for Kurt.
468 reviews1 follower
June 22, 2019
I liked this much more than the other Heuvelt story I read, but I don't know if I could articulate why.
Profile Image for Jess.
895 reviews14 followers
August 1, 2019
I wasn't a huge fan of this one. The concept is cool but the execution great
Profile Image for Amy Conlon.
26 reviews3 followers
June 27, 2014
This story is set in a Thai village, where the the Loi Krathong festival river lanterns upon which people write their secret wishes end up. To me, this story reads like a fable, or maybe a parable. A Buddhist parable, about the nature of wishes, which are desires, really. Part of the reason I read it as a parable or fable is the nicknames by which the characters are identified; a footnote indicates that using nicknames is the cultural norm, but the names given seem so archetypal to me that I have problems seeing the characters as actual persons. So I may be misreading the entire mode of the story.

This story didn't work for me as well as some of the other nominees. Maybe I didn't understand it properly. I was especially disturbed because fairly early on, there is a child drowning. And the story kept going into side story after side story without letting you know if the child was OK. It made it very hard for me to read and appreciate the resolution of all the various wishes when all I really wanted to know was "Does the kid survive?" (And yes, by the end, I saw how the child's peril tied in to the child's wish, and that also makes me think the story was meant to be a parable. Because otherwise, I'm afraid the ending would really piss me off.)
Profile Image for Amy.
Author 2 books151 followers
January 12, 2015
I've often heard it's best to be careful what you wish for. That's the case for a young boy from the village of Doi Saket in Thailand. On the full moon of the 12th month (Thai festival of Loi Krathong), the people of his village collect the krathong, as well as a wishes, launched down the river, and try to grant them. The boy has no wishes, and he journeys to seek the head monk to ask him what he should wish for. What he discovers is that the altruism of the villagers is not universal, and there are nefarious actions afoot. Just like the butterfly that flaps its wings in New Mexico causing a hurricane in China, one boy's quest to find out what he should wish for causes a string of reactions in his own land.

Told in a gentle, Thai-like style by an author of Dutch descent, this short story is another Hugo nominee, made possible for free e-download by the publisher, Tor.

3.5 rounded up to 4
Displaying 1 - 30 of 72 reviews

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