Book Reviews

Novelette review: You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong

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Author: Alyssa Wong

Pages: 44

Genre: Fantasy, Short story, Suspense

Edition: Online webpage

Publication date: 7th June 2016

Read: 17th – 19th May 2017

Rating: 4-stars

When the desert finally lets you go, naked and stumbling, your body humming with raw power and the song of dead things coiled under your tongue, you find Marisol waiting for you at the edge of the bluffs.

(There’s no Goodreads synopsis for this novelette, so I’ve included one in my review.)

Review

There’s something about the desert that seems unknowable and enchanting, so in a novelette that uses the desert as its setting, I was expecting elements of magic and myths. I wasn’t disappointed.

Following Ellis and Marisol, as they try to understand Ellis’s powers and survive in the rundown town, the story uses poetry and lyricism to build vivid pictures of a sand kingdom that is both beautiful and brutal. This story is as dark as they come, involving necromancy, death and metamorphosis, yet it’s also filled with hope.

The characters of Ellis, Marisol, Madam Lettie and William were detailed and well-developed, which is an admirable feat in a short story. I did, however, feel the plot was confusing at times and could have been written more lucidly without spoiling the mystery of Ellis’s abilities. There were moments when scenes cut from one to the other quite jarringly, giving little away about what had transpired. While these transitions served to show Ellis’s confusion, I think they could have been smoothed out to maintain fluidity.

Where Alyssa Wong excels is her narrative style. The writing is delectable; full of sibilance, crushing metaphors and wonderful descriptions, it gives us an unadulterated view into the word she has created. And what a world that is. Full of monsters and men trying to gain control over the desert, who will be controlled by no-one.

I’m not sure whether this novelette is own voices, as the characters’ heritages are never mentioned, but it’s certainly diverse. Ellis and Marisol are POC, and the only character who is explicitly stated to be white is William, described as ‘fair-skinned’ with ‘blond hair’.

I will say that this is written in second person present tense, and I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so if you don’t like that narrative style then this might not be for you. But the prose and mystery are pretty enthralling and it’s a very quick read, so if you’re looking to read more short stories then I’d definitely give it a go.

You can read Alyssa Wong’s novelette here: http://uncannymagazine.com/article/yo…

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