Stories of fantasy and horror

Ian Rosales Casocot

Anvil

ISBN: 9789712725302

Reviewed by Gillian Polack

Casocot’s slender volume contains eight short stories. Not many. In a perfect world, there would be two volumes, each bigger. One of these volumes would be of horror and science fiction, and one would be fantasy and horror concerning the people and town of Dumaguete.

The Dumaguete of Casocot’s stories is a place of danger and whimsy, of magic and oddness. It shares with Alfar’s stories a sense of the tales of Marcel Aymé, where a small change in the local world can lead to interesting consequences. The people of Dumaguete remind me of the people of the stories of Sholem Aleichem or Isaac Bashevis Singer ‑ people who live complete and rich lives in a tiny world. These tales have such a strong sense of place that I wanted to hear more of this fairy-town, where such interesting events can happen.

Other stories (such as the future Earth where women are unknown) are well told, but they lack the sense of place and the feel of a reality that is almost the one we know, but not. It is not that they are bad stories ‑ none of the stories in this volume fail. It is just that the stories of Dumaguete have a special quality. I like the thought of a place where a paintbrush can change the colour of the sky, or that prefers chicken above all other food and can have a day when suddenly there is no more chicken and no more eggs. Where everyday life tends towards the allegorical and the astonishing is accepted as the town’s due. It’s not a safe town and the people are not ordinary people. Even when leached of their magic, they are not ordinary.

These stories have to be read with patience. It’s like unrolling a ball of that wool that shades from one colour to the next. You know that you’ll get wool and even the texture of the wool and its smell. You are never quite sure, however, which colour it’s going to be or when it will end. The stories are an exploration, and a charming one.

At his best, Casocot’s tales have a sense of the fabulous about them. At their worst, they are good tales well told but without anything special. I will watch and wait for I’m hoping my future holds a big volume of the stories that hold that special magic of place.