2 out of 4 stars
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Catalin Rojisteanu considers war, jail, and fatherhood as his greatest battles. His experiences are the source of his unique stories in Spare Dreams. Almost Short Stories. The book is a collection of 22 fascinating stories; the majority of them have fantastical elements. One (“Strike One: The Universal Decolportor”) is about a machine that can tell you what others think of you. Another (“Wandering Soul”) features a haunted mirror that gives the holder a twin. Yet another (“The Self-Portrait”) speaks of the World of Lost Works. Two stories, the best two for me, narrate the horrific struggles of soldiers fighting in wars; both have surprising and unforgettable endings. Within the book's 282 pages, we meet heroes and heels, lovers both faithful and otherwise, unusual animals, and a genie.
The author uses a “stream of consciousness” style that makes the stories a bit confusing. Run-on sentences and sentence fragments are sprinkled liberally. I had to read the stories at least twice, and even then, a few still puzzled me. Nevertheless, I cannot keep from commending the author for his wealth of ideas and obvious erudition. His knowledge of the Bible, Western mythology, computer terminology, literature, art, and war facts is evident throughout the book. Reading the book was an enriching experience. For one, I didn’t know that “batman” was used outside of Gotham City.
As is true of memorable short stories, the pieces employ symbolism, inspire pondering, and stir the readers to continue the stories in their minds. The author uses humor to great effect on many occasions. He calls Judas “the first NGO” as the 30 pieces of silver are used to buy a public burial field. An army captain starts “thinking like a pregnant woman (everything was calculated in terms of weeks)” when his beleaguered company has only a few weeks of provisions left in stock.
However, the reading experience was fraught with challenges. The author’s stylistic choices were mentioned earlier. The story titles were not highlighted, so I didn’t know when a new story was starting. The points of view shifted within the stories. Since many of the conversations did not have dialogue tags, it was difficult to pinpoint who was speaking. Numerous formatting faults (like inconsistencies in indentation and paragraph spacing) and grammatical errors presented more distractions. The author also used unfamiliar terms and foreign phrases without defining them.
As the stories straddle many genres including fantasy, romance, crime, suspense, and historical fiction, fans of the said genres will find something to like in the book. The armchair traveler will delight in the references to Romanian culture. Those who value family relationships will be touched by several poignant scenes and might even be moved to tears. Extremely devout Christians may be offended by some controversial statements, though. The reader should also be prepared for the author’s colorful language; both sexually suggestive and profane words appear many times.
I give the book 2 out of 4 stars, taking two stars off for the distracting issues cited. Addressing the grammar and formatting mishaps and adding dialogue tags to speech would do wonders to improve readability. A glossary for difficult words would also be beneficial. I am sure that the author can fine-tune the book for its readers to have sweet dreams.
Spare Dreams. Almost Short Stories
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