Title: Prism, by: Roland Allnach – Book Review
A rather intriguing and thought-provoking storyteller. Each piece in this collection is literally and figuratively engaging. In short, Allnach’s abilities as a storyteller to transport the reader to fantastical worlds are evident, but these tales also lend themselves to allegorical comparison with current, private to sociological issues. The wide range of characters in this collection range from pathetic and triumphant to homicidal and psychotic. The collection could have been called “Tragedy and Comedy” but that would have been too cliché. There’s a lot of tragedy, a bit of comedy, lots of surreal elements and always with hints of suspense. It leaves you guessing. In this collection you will find short stories reminiscent of Poe’s grotesque and troubled witty style. You’ll also find epic poetry, Shakespearean tragedy, and occasionally comic relief. There’s something for everyone, but the roads of most of these stories are dark and paradoxically fraught with hope and despair.
The final story, “Dissociated,” is about the cyclical nature of things, writing, and life. A nice way to end, considering the first story, “After the Empire”, which is about the end of things. Although there is a wide range of issues and genres in Prism, there’s a sense of a continuum, kind of like a concept album where the songs exist on their own but somehow come together. The soldier in “After the Empire” willingly fights for a lost cause. The protagonist of “11” fights against his own subconscious. The critic in “Icon” fights against the media’s flattering craze for celebrity; and thus fights against itself. So there is this continuum of struggle, reflection, reconstruction, reconciliation. In “Memento”, Henry attempts to reconcile by reaching out to his enemy’s family. The internal psychological struggle and the actual war run parallel like the two sides of a prism, with multiple angles of introspection and allegorical interpretation on the sides. Dark as they are, they invite the reader to look at the struggle as a difficulty but also as an accepted challenge, and there is optimism in this pessimism. Not everything is Sisyphus. Allnach provides levity with the nose picker in “The Great Hunter” and the otherwise titled “Tumbleweed” poem “An Ode to a Well Endowed Gunslinger”.
I have to mention “Beheld” as a really interesting look at creation itself. But where Allnach really goes off the beaten path is with “Titalis” and “Typhon and Aerina”. Titalis is a tragedy with Shakespearean themes and flowery language as a bonus. “Typhoon and Aerina” is an epic poem written in a classical style. It makes for an interesting juxtaposition in the collection; so much science fiction is set in the future, but these are ambiguous because they could be in the distant past, the distant future, or in a parallel universe. It reminds the family guy mockery of star wars noting that the story is “in a galaxy far, far away but somehow in the future”. Kidding aside, that’s the mark of a good science fiction writer; to give the tales a certain linear ambiguity, leaving it up to the reader to decide if they have already happened or if they have yet to happen.