Book: Where Futures End

"Where Futures End"

“Five Teenagers.
Five Futures.
Two Worlds.
One Ending.

One year from now, DYLAN develops a sixth sense that allows him to glimpse another world.
Ten years from now, BRIXNEY must get more hits on her social media feed or risk being stuck in a debtor’s colony.
Thirty years from now, EPONY scrubs her online profile and goes ‘High-Concept.’
Sixty years from now, REEF struggles to survive in a city turned virtual gameboard.
And more than one hundred years from now, QUINN uncovers the alarming secret that links them.

Five people, divided by time, determine the fate of us all. These are brilliantly connected stories of one world bent on destroying itself and an alternate world that just might be its savior–unless it’s too late.

In the future, who will you choose to be? And how will you find yourself before the end?”

I was excited when I first started reading Where Futures End. The first story, Dylan’s development of his ‘sixth’ sense that allows him to see and enter an alternate world, wasn’t very original–but it was very engaging. Sure, Dylan was a character that we’ve met time and again in many fantasy adventure novels, but there was something in the way author Parker Peevyhouse wrote him that makes you want to see him get his happy ending.

And then his story suddenly ends.

Brixney’s story was strange. Original, yes– But also very familiar in our social media-obsessed world. Again, we get a character worth rooting for, and a predicament you want to see unfold.

And then her story suddenly ends.

I’m starting to feel restless. What is the author’s purpose in cutting the stories off? Why aren’t they being allowed to flourish? We’re being given promising beginnings with no middle, and no end– But then, I remember: the book blurb promises a last story that would link all of these vignettes.

The third story with Epony was more self-contained. A short story that had a clear beginning, middle, and end. My need for a satisfying story was quenched–even if the story itself wasn’t as good as the first two. And then when the fourth story with Reef ends, I’m starting to feel that my enjoyment of the book was diminishing.

Still. No matter. The final story promises to link all the stories together. I tell myself that it will work out, probably, because why else would people be saying the story was good. I started to hold on to the promise of the book blurbs. Of people saying the book was good–

And then I read the final story. A story that was supposed to link all the stories together. And it does, yes. But the stories were already linked in the first place. Reef’s story was spurned on by Epony’s. Epony’s by Brixney’s. Brixney’s by Dylan’s. And yes, technically the book didn’t lie when it promised an alarming secret that links all five stories.

But it’s a horrible link. It doesn’t tie up the stories together. They remain vignettes of half-realized premises that never became whole. Except the third story. And as I turn the final page, I find myself asking if the gimmick of linking these stories with a last story was realized because the author couldn’t find a way to wrap up the individual stories. That she couldn’t push the story forward to a satisfying conclusion.

Because the book ends and I don’t get the point of it all.

Because the book ends, and the weakest story in terms of originality and characterization suddenly becomes the strongest for actually having an ending and character growth.

Because the book ends, and all I want is the chance to go back in time and stop myself from buying it. Or, at the very least, warn myself not to expect anything from it. Can I do that? Can I go back in time and stop myself from hoping that this book would give me any satisfaction?

Book: 20th Century Ghosts

"20th Century Ghosts"

The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past…

I picked this book up because I thoroughly enjoyed NOS4A2 and Horns, and I realized: I still have yet to pick up any other Joe Hill books. So when I saw a copy of this anthology at Forbidden Planet while on the lookout for something to read during my almost twenty-hour flight back home… Well, I just had to pick it up, right?

Now, here’s the thing: Joe Hill writes horror stories. And although I love reading and writing horror stories… I kind of scare easy. And when you’re thousands of feet up in the air, reading an anthology of scary stories is the last thing you want to do.

Except– It’s not really an anthology of scary stories. It’s a collection of horrifying tales, yes. And sure, one of them gave me nightmares (My Father’s Mask)– But, take the 20th Century Ghost story for example. It wasn’t written to strike fear into readers’ hearts, but it was written with a lot of heart. And you have got to read the story in the Acknowledgments section.

Then there’s The Widow’s Breakfast that gives you just the right amount of goosebumps, and there’s The Cape that does horrify readers for a different reason. But some stories, like You Will Hear The Locust Sing, that made me scratch my head. (Although, I confess, I’ve never been a fan of films like The Fly, so I might not be the intended audience for this particular story).

It’s an eclectic collection. Each story will strike a different chord of thrill or fear in your spine. If it doesn’t, it’s probably busy plucking at the strings of your heart. But at the end of it all, it turns out that 20th Century Ghosts isn’t really an anthology of horror stories. Just stories that are supposed to horrify.

And I could’ve survived reading it up in the air with no fear of goblins appearing on the wings of the plane.

If you’re not familiar with Joe Hill or his works yet, I suggest you don’t acquaint yourself with his works through this collection first. Read one of his novels and then find your way back to this anthology instead.

Book: Manila Noir

"Manila Noir"

Manila’s a city of survivors, schemers, and dreamers… A city of extremes. Where the rich live in posh enclaves, guarded by men with guns. Where the poor improvise homes out of wood, tin, and cardboard and live by their wits. Where five-star hotels and luxury malls selling Prada and Louis Vuitton coexist with toxic garbage dumps and sprawling ‘informal settlements’ (a.k.a. squatter settlements), where religious zeal coexists with superstition, where ‘hospitality’ might be another word for prostitution, where sports and show business can be the first step to politics, where politics can be synonymous with nepotism, cronyism, and corruption, where violence is nothing out of the ordinary, and pretty much anything can be had for a price–if you have the money and/or the connection, that is…

To be perfectly honest, I have a very vague notion of what noir is. So whatever I was expecting Manila Noir to be, it definitely wasn’t what I got when I read the stories contained in the anthology. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Except when it is.

I liked some of the stories. I loved the Trese short. And a couple of the stories bored me to the point of putting me to sleep. Thrice. Yes, three times. In the span of a dozen pages. More or less.

And at the end of the day, I have nothing to take away from reading said book. Except, maybe a question.

How do editors decide on which writers to invite for collections such as Manila Noir?

There’s usually a foreword written by the editor to introduce the writers included in the anthology. I don’t remember if this had one. Not that it should matter. Right? But there’s a couple of writers who I have already read outside of this book… And I was surprised that I didn’t care much for the stories they wrote for Manila Noir, when I enjoyed their separate work.

Maybe the collection was limiting? Or maybe it was too expansive? I don’t know. All I know is that, while reading the book, my enjoyment levels fluctuated. I would enjoy one story, only for it to be followed by one I wouldn’t enjoy as much, before it would be followed by another I wouldn’t like at all.

Maybe I should stop reading books like this, since you never really know what you’re going to get. And I actually wouldn’t have picked it up if it weren’t for the Trese short.

It’s a good thing that the Trese story alone was worth the price of the book.

Book: A Bottle of Storm Clouds

"A Bottle of Storm Clouds"

Award-winning author Eliza Victoria mixes magic with the mundane in this special concoction of 16 short stories. A girl meets a young man with the legs of a chicken. A boy is employed by a goddess running a pawnshop. A group of teenagers are trapped in an enchanted forest for 900 days. A man finds himself in an MRT station beyond Taft, a station that was not supposed to exist. A student claims to have seen the last few digits of pi. Someone’s sister gets abducted by mermaids.

Take this bottle of storm clouds and explore the worlds within.

I just realized that I’ve run out of Filipino books to read, and I still have a couple of dozen imported books to go through! That needs to be remedied, and fast! But in the meantime, let’s settle in and talk about Eliza Victoria’s collection of stories: A Bottle of Storm Clouds.

I’m not going to be objective here. I’m not a fan of the short story format when it comes to fantasy, as the payoff usually doesn’t satisfy the investment you’ve put into the world-building. Fortunately, A Bottle of Storm Clouds features only a couple of stories that don’t live up to the expectations they set you up with. Most of the time, author Victoria sets up her world quickly with a few choice words, leaving the rest of the very short stories to make you fall in love with her characters, before they break your heart.

My personal favorites of the bunch is “Ana’s Little Pawnshop on Makiling Street,” “The Just World of Helena Jimenez,” and “Once, In a Small Town.” Those are the stories that, while perfect as is, would also do well in a bigger scale–as their own novels. Although, “The Just World of Helena Jimenez” is very reminiscent of Eliza Victoria’s own Project 17 already. So maybe just the other two.

In “Ana’s Little Pawnshop on Makiling Street,” Victoria creates a wonderful world of mythological creatures co-existing with human beings. The idea of bartering for something more valuable than money? It’s not original, but the author infuses it with so much earnestness, and so much loneliness, that you can’t help but feel for the characters. Even the unassuming protagonist whose point of view we follow.

Meanwhile, “Once, In a Small Town” creates such a rich world of stories that I think author Victoria can further mine. The idea of a town full of people with magical abilities? A gift that automatically doubles as a curse? These are great hooks and plot points for a bigger story that’s just waiting to be told.

I must say: Eliza Victoria has a great handle on creating mood with her words. And although I’m not a fan of short story collections, I must say this is a book that’s truly recommendable.

Book: Stories from the Diabolical

Filipino Friday is back! And I’m not participating in the first topic discussion. Not because I don’t think it’s a topic I want to discuss, but more because I don’t really know how to define myself as a book reader. Instead, I’m going to write about Stories from the Diabolical.

"Stories from the Diabolical"

Welcome to The Diabolical! My name is Hank. I’ll be your bartender for tonight. What will it be? Don’t tell me. I know exactly what you want to drink.

So, what’s on your mind? You have a story to tell? You’ve come to the right place. I’ve got some interesting stories as well.

Have you heard the one about the ghost who walked in the bar? The one who kept coming back, waiting for the arrival of that certain someone?

What about the guy who had coffee with his dead girlfriend? Or the story of the spectral Christmas carolers?

And then there’s that strange tale of all those senior citizens who watched the last full show and never came out.

No? Haven’t heard those? Well, have another drink and I’ll tell you all about it.

I liked it. To a point. I mean, I love how the team of Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo continue to build the world of Trese. But at the same time… There’s something missing from this collection of stories. I don’t know how… but it lacks the spark of a Trese release.

Obviously, this judgement is colored by the fact that I’m a fan of the Trese series. On its own, the stories here are exceptional and original. They’re properly creepy… and sometimes poignant. But they’re not very exciting. And that’s something we’ve come to expect from each Trese release. The anticipation for something bigger at work. The thrill of the chase. And those aren’t present here.

For me, Stories From the Diabolical suffers from its connection with Trese. Because I’m expecting something akin to Trese, I’m disappointed after I realize that I’m not getting it. And I understand that this release really isn’t supposed to feel like a Trese book–that’s why it doesn’t have her name on the cover. But because she is in the stories, and it takes place in the same universe, I can’t help but associate.

And that’s a bad thing for the anthology. As I said, I think the stories are exceptional and original. They would just work better if they weren’t related to Trese.

I don’t know if I’m still making sense here. I guess you’ll just have to grab a copy of the release to make your own mind up about it.

To the Trese fans, tell me if you feel the same way as I do. To those who’ve never picked a copy of Trese up, tell me if you liked the stories without a backgrounder on what the world they’re inhabiting is like.

Television: Kabang, the hero dog, gets spotlight on ‘Magpakailanman’

"Kabang: Hero Dog"

Dogs are known to be man’s best friend. But in this one instance, this particular dog became a man’s saving grace.

But Kabang’s story begins earlier than that. Earlier than his inception, actually. Because his story begins with Mang Rudy Bunggal. A simple man with a simple dream: he wanted to be a soldier. But because of the political climate, his mother forbade him to do so. And to ensure that he doesn’t go to camp without her consent, she tore up his birth certificate.

Hurting, Rudy decided to run away to find himself sans his dream.

In his journey, he ended up in Malaysia where he started a family. But his stay in the country was illegal. Against his wishes, he was separated from his family and deported back to the Philippines.

Rudy was forlorn. Nothing in his life was going right. And so he took to alcohol. It was during this time that he met a new family–one that will show him what he needed in his life: to find his mother again. To make amends. To move on.

But how can he do so when he can no longer find his way back?

Rudy decided to just be a good provider for his new found family. And it was during this time that he found Kabang.

A small pup, all Rudy saw in the dog was that it can grow up to become a delicious side dish for when he’s drinking with friends. But Dina, his pseudo-adopted daughter takes to the dog. The two become inseparable, and Rudy can’t find it in himself to take the dog away from her.

And so the two became close. Dina and Kabang. To see one would be to see the other. And it turned out to be a good thing. Because one fateful day, a motorcycle who had to swerve to avoid collision found itself on another collision course–with Dina! Kabang acted fast and used herself to block the motorcycle’s path. Dina was saved.

But Kabang lost the top half of his snout.

This would’ve been the end of Kabang’s story, but when the news broke out about the heroic deeds of this dog, Kabang became a celebrity. Help poured in. Kabang was given a second chance at life.

Kabang was sent to the US, and Rudy became a staple on the news.

One of the features on his life reached a shelter in a nearby province. An old woman has heard his name being said on television, and wondered–if this is the same Rudy she has been looking for decades.

A nurse makes contact with the foundation that has been helping Rudy and Kabang. Rudy finds out the name of the woman looking for him.

It’s his mother. The one he tried to find. The one he tried to go back to.

She has found him, because of Kabang.

But as time ticks down for Kabang, it does so as well for Rudy’s mother. Will Kabang’s spirit and courage lend itself to Rudy as he finds himself face to face with the woman who’s been missing in his life for decades?

Find out tonight on Magpakailanman; featuring Ricky Davao, Jillian Ward, and Snooky Serna in an episode written by Glaiza Ramirez, based on the research of Jonathan Cruz, and directed by Dick Lindayag.

Magpakailanman airs Saturday nights, after Vampire ang Daddy Ko.

Television: A dad becomes both parents in tonight’s ‘Magpakailanman’

"Magpakailanman: Ronaldo Niangar"

He was a ne’er-do-well who wanted life to be easy. That is, until he met the woman who forced him on the straight and narrow.

Ronaldo Niangar knows that he didn’t lead a good and honest life. Which is why it was particularly difficult for him to court the woman he wanted to marry. She wanted him to change, and he did too–except to change is easier said than done.

But life has a way of forcing us to be good. Ronaldo’s time came when his youngest daughter fell with an illness that placed her in a comatose state.

His wife decided that to make ends meet, she would have to apply as a domestic helper abroad. Ronaldo wanted to stop her, but couldn’t. And then she proceeded to disappear from his life, and his children’s lives.

His youngest daughter wakes up from a coma, but something’s changed. Her illness had allowed for cerebral palsy to develop, and the girl is now vegetative in state, even though she is no longer in a coma.

As responsibilities pile up on Ronaldo, how long can he hold out before he returns to his old ways? How can someone who only wanted an easy life suffer this kind of life?

Find out tonight, on Magpakailanman, in Flowers of Hope: The Ronaldo Niangar Story, featuring Mr. Ogie Alcasid in the starring role. Joining him in the episode are Manilyn Reynes, Lexi Fernandez, Eva Darren, Spanky Manikan, and Mona Louise Rey. The episode also features the special appearances of Protege winners Jeric Gonzales and Thea Tolentino.

Flowers of Hope: The Ronaldo Niangar Story is written by Mary Rose Colindres, based on the research of Gel Launo. The episode was directed by Dondon Santos.