Stories From The Plague Years is the first fiction collection from award-winning fantasy author, Michael Marano. His evocative, unique voice gives us nine, terrifying yet tender tales; bridging the gap between a time when our world collided with evil and sickness, to the present--filled with the lasting scars we all wear... and can still touch... if we dare.
Every story is worthy of note--building upon and/or complementing the theme his elegant prose has constructed. However, these were the best:
"Displacement" - Dean Garrison has spent two years at a university, aspiring to be a graduate of Political Science, but when his Professor Dr. Molino questions his ability, his world is shaken. He seeks solace in his love - Karen - and their mutual friend Evan. The further Dean searches for help, the more complicated his life becomes. Is there a cure for Dean's problems? Easily one of the best stories in the collection, Displacement amalgamates subtle elements from literature of yester-year--while remaining unique, taking it to the next level.
"Changeling" is a very short tale, but packs quite a punch. "The Boy" lives in a world bereft of humanity. "The Mother" and "The Father" do their best for him--using their own, unique methods. Changeling explores monsters in principle, and therein lays the power of this tale; as well as the ambiguity--tantalizing, even as the story is finished. Or is it?
"The Siege" - Charleston is a town with a past so palpable; you can still feel the remnants of the past. Or is this illusion? Marano gives us people, not wooden characters, through whose eyes we see reality as they travel from work to home. The beauty of this short tale is perception, and the price that it comes with.
"Burden" - Again, Marano seamlessly pulls the reader into the protagonist and swiftly envelopes you in a world where you have many friends and many lovers. As you walk to work one day, you see a former lover. He doesn't look well. At a bar, sharing drinks, you inquire about him. No one has seen him since he left town. But this is the least of your worries, once you find yourself being followed home... something wants you, but do you want it?
"Winter Requiem" is one of the best tales of the collection. Marano--his voice in full force - bridges the past with the present. A Prince hastily leaves his castle with the town mob's foot-steps not far behind. David is a struggling musician. Age and his body's ailments make even the simplest symphony hard to compose. A stranger offers David some help. Will his eagerness to do what his heart desires, out-weigh the cost demanded?
"Shibboleth" - yet another diamond in this collection finds two men in a world eerily familiar to our own. The only problem? Something terrible has happened, and past is prologue to the price those who are trying to survive must pay. Shibboleth captures humanity at its best and its worst. With his trademark voice, rarely has humanity been captured so well within literature.
Stories From The Plague Years is written with a voice wholly unique and powerful, a prose that pulls the reader into the people he creates from the first sentence. These stories don't have twists that shock and surprise--they have a depth rarely found in fiction. Marano complements this ability with a terrifying realization; leaving the reader actually feeling guilty for being alive... we are all survivors of The Plague Years, we are not meant to be--and to sell this as Marano has, leaves many of his peers in the dust... regardless of the year.
Visit http://michaelmarano.com/. Buy it today.
Review by Ben Eads.