The Specusphere / Estee Media (2012)
Reviewed by Tehani Wessely
Taking as its premise the idea of stories that encapsulate myths and legends, be they new forms of traditional myths, or stories that could take a place beside these legends. A fairly lofty goal, and one I’m not sure this selection achieves completely successfully, but Mythic Resonance holds some strong pieces that are worth discussing.
The opening piece of the anthology, “The Salted Heart” by NA Sulway, starts out the book in a dark and quite powerful way. Using an Akkadian god as a central plot point, it blends the creepiness of undersea cave diving with an ancient love story.
Alan Baxter’s contribution is “The Everywhere and the Always”, which presents a quite nasty look at the fae and the impact interacting with them can have on a person, and a family. I’ve read a lot of similar stories utilising this theme, but this was still a well-written addition to the oeuvre.
Next up is “Annabel and the Witch” by Paul Freeman, which made a very brave attempt to be a quite detailed story told in rhyming verse. The plot itself is nothing new, much of the rhyme is cutesy and laboured, and this is one of the pieces that really didn’t fit the theme, for me. However, points to the writer for an unusual take.
Donna Hanson’s “Through These Eyes I See” started out very strongly, with a disturbing scenario and charismatic characters. It didn’t finish as well as it started, but still left an impression. I would have liked this to be somewhat longer, to be honest, building up a stronger narrative and sense of who the non-protagonist characters were and how they fitted in. Again, another that I didn’t feel fit the theme all that successfully, but an interesting addition.
I really didn’t enjoy “A Tale of Publication: A Contemporary Fairytale” by Les Zigomanis – this was a real stretch to fit into the subject of the book and was perhaps the most amateurish addition to the collection. I’m sure authors feel the pain of the main character, but I just didn’t see the point. A low point for me.
On the other hand, I liked “La Belle Dame” by Satima Flavell, although it’s another I would have liked to see more of – I felt it had a greater tale to tell than was published here. A bittersweet story.
“Glorious Destiny” by Steven Gepp was another good piece. Taking as its inspiration the ancient tales of heroic legend, this story went in a very different direction. The ending was well-telegraphed, but nevertheless engaging.
I’m not sure how “Meeting My Renaissance Man” by Vicky Daddo met the theme requirements, but it was quite well-written, if a little obvious. A sweet melding of history and the modern world.
“Wetlands” by Jen White was one of the few stories that explored an explicitly Australian landscape and considered a true opportunity to create a new mythology. An interesting idea; I wasn’t wholly convinced of the plausibility of the premise, but it was nicely done overall.
I’m not familiar with the traditional folk tale that served as the basis for “Man’s Best Friend” by Tom Williams, but I wonder how close this piece is to the original story. It felt almost as if just the setting (time and place) may have been the only real changes, but the end tugged at my tear ducts, so it’s a successful piece for me!
Another story that used traditional mythology was “In Paradise, Trapped” by Kelly Dillon, this time taking the Norse gods and the Valkyrie as the inspiration. I really enjoyed this one – an interesting riff on the ancient tales that really only uses the bare bones of the legends but in a clever way.
“Holly and Iron” by Nigel Read was a fairly slight addition to the anthology, a story that didn’t really have a significant plot but was perfectly readable nonetheless.
Rounding out the collection is an intelligent and enchanting re-imagining of Snow White, “Brothers” by Sue Bursztynski. Definitely a highlight of the book for me, I thoroughly enjoyed the unusual point of view narration and the story presented.
In all, Mythic Resonance is an interesting, if somewhat uneven, collection of stories that has some great high notes but which doesn’t quite, for me, hit the target of a solid themed anthology. While I found almost all the stories at least well-written and engaging, quite a few seemed out of step with the anthology idea. That said, it was a relaxing read and I can recommend it as one of the current crop of Australian anthologies to catch up with.