Jo's Reviews > Amok

Amok by Dominica Malcolm
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(Review from the author)
it was amazing
bookshelves: books-jo-read-in-2014

I am thrilled that an anthology that focuses on Asian and Pacific culture exists, showcasing a unique blend of nationalities that range from East Asia to the Southeast and to the Pacific Islands. As one of the contributors to this book with my short story “Moon Rabbit,” it is an absolute honor to be among so many talented wordsmiths who are obviously engaged in the cultures and subjects they choose to explore and build worlds around.

"Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction" is a must for all sci-fi, fantasy, and horror lovers. There are many characters that readers unaccustomed to Asian folklore may be unfamiliar with, such as the kitsune from Japan and the aswang from the Philippines, but this potential unfamiliarity do not detract from the plots. There is something in here for everyone, though much of the stories delve into dark, heart-wrenching, even violently graphic topics and descriptions. But never fear, the light of humanity and empathy is sprinkled throughout the stories, and there is always something to smile about as you realize how human, how real, and how subtly humorous, these subjects are.

As much as I would like to touch upon each of the twenty-four stories, allow me to share the few gems that I had the pleasure of reading.

“Operation Toba 2049” by Kris Williamson, Malaysia
I found myself wondering what in the world Ria’s mother was doing to keep her so busy and stay at work until I came to the end. It felt so real, the dire situation and the method of evacuation the government imposed on the people. I felt as though the apocalypse was truly happening, especially upon reading the final page.

“Target: Heart” by Recle Etino Vibal, Philippines
What a unique take on cupids. There were such detailed, meticulous descriptions of the usage of slingshot and its deceivingly simple mechanisms and structure. For instance, I would never have though of small, spherical stones to have less air resistance than jagged ones, but reading that particular passage made perfect sense. I also shuddered at Damian’s heartlessness, such as the sentence on page 43: “The bursting of feathers or sputtering of blood was also more fun than the shattering of glasses.”
I thoroughly enjoyed the twists. They say love can be deadly, but I never saw it in such a sinister light until now.

“Dreams” by Tabitha Sin, Hong Kong
Beautiful, heartbreaking, and haunting descriptions of the yearnings for a dead lover. I fell in love with the gorgeously gruesome, poetic imagery and sensibilities of lost love, and the use of a sleeping drugs in vain attempts to reunite.

“The Volunteer” by TR Napper, Vietnam and Thailand
The setting is a war that takes place about a hundred years after the Vietnam War. I enjoyed the integration of the theme of war crimes, a little weaving of the history of China-Vietnam relationships, and the Nuremberg defense. My favorite scenes involved the Thai waitress--I had a feeling she was up to something, and was glad to see that my predictions were accurate.

“Bright Student” by Terence Toh, Malaysia
As a university student, I empathized with all the agony that Yi Ling felt as she was going through her exams. Schools in Asia are notorious for their exams, methods of teaching, and rate of suicide, even for something as small as a report card of one D among ten A’s.
Toh’s writing is absolutely engaging and clever. I felt absorbed in the shop with the mysterious, sinister boy and forbidding objects, and Yi Ling’s feelings and experiences after the transaction. Holy cow, that exam scene was absolutely frightening and disturbing. This piece accurately demonstrates the desperation and lengths ambitious students will take for good grades.
The scientific definition of light woven into the story was also a clever touch.

“In Memoriam” by Fadzlishah Johanabas, Malaysia
The jarring descriptions made me feel as though I was plunged into the hospital and the myriad descriptions of the surgery right there with Alia, a grieving mother who lost her sullen teenage son to a horrible accident. I felt my heart shatter a bit upon reading the ending.

“When the Rice Was Gone” by Dominica Malcolm, South Korea
What a wonderful blend of post-apocalyptic and mythical fantasy elements. I could really feel the bleakness of the situation the characters were in, and I enjoyed the fact that bisexuality was woven into a couple of the characters’ personalities, proving Malcolm as a champion of not only racial diversity in writing, but also for sexual diversity. I absolutely loved the twist, and stories with mermaids, especially when done well, make me happy.

In short, I cannot wait to receive my contributor hard copy of this anthology and relish the tangibility of pages and ink that do all of this great writing justice.
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Reading Progress

February 18, 2014 – Started Reading
February 18, 2014 – Shelved
February 18, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
February 18, 2014 –
page 8
3.17% "Finished reading the introduction. Dominica makes me proud to be included!"
February 18, 2014 –
page 8
3.17% "Finished reading the introduction. Dominica makes me proud to be included!"
February 19, 2014 –
page 23
9.13% "Oh wow, I just gasped."
February 22, 2014 –
page 53
21.03% "I was very enraptured by the last 2 stories I read. Very good twists!"
March 16, 2014 –
page 158
62.7% ""Bright Student" by Terrence Toh is one of the stories that stood out the most to me so far."
March 19, 2014 – Finished Reading
August 17, 2014 – Shelved as: books-jo-read-in-2014

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