The Horror Zine Review
by Anne M. Stickel
Paperback: 124 pages
by Anne M. Stickel
Review by Christopher Nadeau
Anne Stickel’s Alat is a work of erotic high fantasy. For those who don’t know what high fantasy is, the style is defined as a sub-genre of fantasy that takes place in parallel worlds, reminiscent of the worlds of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. However, when adding the word “erotic” into the mix, we wind up with something rather different from the staid, often celibate universes that Tolkien and Lewis offered.
Alat is a mythological version of our own world, a place where elves and other mystical creatures are after power and have human sexual needs. Aami, like most mythological protagonists, is born of a human mother and a non-human (in this case elf) father and is destined to deliver the child of hope and salvation. Nothing new there, but that’s where “erotic” comes in.
Alat is filled with sex. Lots and lots of sex. Bizarre, often disturbing sex that might make some readers blanch and even cause an outright revulsion. Horrible creatures drip deadly things from between their legs and everybody seems to want to get Aami pregnant. There’s no moral majority movement in Alat, that’s for sure. It’s kind of like the 1970s with elves.
The book’s opening is equal parts fascinating and confusing. It opens with what reads like a prologue detailing an event that seems rather disturbing, although its exact meaning and purpose are unclear. It begins with children being ceremonially herded into a body of water, and it is enough of a hook to get the reader wanting to read past the first chapter. A real grasp of this complex world does not begin until after page eight.
This is a quest novel, the quest in this case being salvation and peace, those beloved chestnuts of the Judeo-Christian construct. The world of Alat is in chaos, each faction and race vying for power in an apparent vacuum and the only one who has the potential to stop the madness is Aami’s child. But it all depends on who winds up being the father, the real conflict of the story.
When Stickel’s writing a battle scene or about sex, the writing is wonderfully detailed and imaginative. That also goes for her overall vision of this often dangerous world populated with nightmarish creatures and hapless humans.
But in other areas, there is not enough description in order for us to visualize the world she’s creating. The reader is left to guess what the weapons and attire look like. The interior artwork is sketchy and distracting, serving to pull us out of Stickel’s work rather than illustrate it. There’s also no dictionary for the pronunciation of the characters names and no map to provide us with an overall image of the places to which these characters travel, both staples of the genre.
Stickel’s novella is not for the faint of heart. Its style may be difficult for those who are not fans of high fantasy. Still, the real strong point of Alat is its plot. Stickel establishes a classic myth-feel helped along by excellent dialogue and pacing.
Overall, Alat is compelling. Stickel deals very well with the heroic female persona, presenting her as a willing participant in the salvation of her people. The concept of a woman’s womb being the catalyst for the novel’s events is a strong one that, for the most part, pays off very well. Stickel keeps us at a slight emotional distance from the main character Aami when bad things happen to her such as violation, yet we are close enough to Aami to feel a connection to her. We are allowed to grasp the stakes of her struggle.
For fans of erotic fantasy who are willing to take the time to learn about the world of Alat as they read, this is an auspicious beginning to a brave new world…with lots and lots of sex.
You can buy Alat HERE.
About the author
Anne M. Stickel
Anne M. Stickel writes the Napper's Holler short story series, edits Black Petals Magazine, and is a former Managing Copyeditor for Ray Gun Revival, with many prose, poetry and art publications. She has had several pieces in Santa Cruz County papers and winning poems in California Chaparral Poets contests. Black Petals Magazine work includes illos, stories, and reviews.
Her poems were in The 2004 Monterey Bay Poetry Antologyand received Santa Cruz County Fair prizes/championships. ORU Anthology #3 (fall 2008) features her short SF story, “Blind Stitches.” Works in The Pedestal literarye-zine include: art, issue #16-2003, 10.04 political issue SF, and review 8.06. Ray Gun Revival publications include: 8.1.06 (issue #3) & 5.1.07 (issue #21) SF stories. Works also appeared in: Showcase 1 & 2 (ColinHarvey). Surreal Magazine writings include: 6 reviews, an interview, and an article online. Writers Post Journal (12.2004) published a story. Yellow Mama has published a review, Napper's Holler tales, and an Alat excerpt.
Anne has done editing/proofing for authors Brian Royer (2 books), B.T. Robertson (2 books), Jeremiah Edwards (1 book), Jeff Wheeler (2 books), Jeremy Whitted of Deep Magic, Lynda Williams (2 ORU books), Nathalie Mallet (1 book), Steve Davidson (1 nonfiction book), and in assisting Ken Crist with Black Petals. Her SF story, “Honeymoon in Hayel,” appeared in print in David Lee Summers’ Tales of the Talisman fall 2007 issue.
You can visit Black Petals Magazine HERE
You can visit Booklocker HERE
About the reviewer
Christopher Nadeau is the author of the novel Dreamers at Infinity's Core available through COM Publishing's Sword & Science imprint and Amazon as well as the short story, "Rosa, Rosa Come out of Your Room" in the horror anthology, Saturday Evening Ghost.
He was recently interviewed on Suspense Radio as part of its up and coming authors program and has collaborated on a “machinima” film with UK animator Celestial Elf called The Gift, which can be viewed on YouTube. He has also written and published over a hundred print and online articles ranging in subject matter from local politics to pop culture and New Age cults, the latter providing inspiration for a novel currently in the works.
Christopher lives and works in Southeastern Michigan and is an active member of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers.