Trysts: A Triskaide collection Of Queer And Weird Stories by Steve Berman
Steve Berman has assembled his most compelling stories of trysts that range from the eerie to the horrifying to the wondrous. Cut and paste a voodoo doll made of magazine clippings: watch as a ouija board spells out your deepest secret…mourn the loss of your boyfriend while awaiting his ghost… listen to the ancient whisperings of a threadbare flapper dress…gamble for more than money on a Southern riverboat…renounce your citizenship to walk through a restricted area, rife with magic. Experience passion and loss, all within the pages of this triskaide collection – thirteen stories where the supernatural is as likely to doom as to save those that are drawn to its power. Trysts offers readers dark and quirky tales from a distinctive new voice in gay fiction.
Berman takes a twist on the dreaded number thirteen and dares the reader to look away in this collection of short twisted stories. The various themes involve romance, passion, science fiction, unhappy endings, short encounters, magic, death, life, and a bit of whimsy. Fans of the author will likely devour these stories that revolve around the loneliness of life and needing a human connection, sometimes at a great cost. Berman’s masterful touch of horror and dark elements blended with touches of humor and hope give an even tone to the writing without delving too far into the dark side and alienating readers. The fantasy journey is well worth taking for any lover of well-written creative fiction.
This collection stands out from others with its creative twists and imagery. From stories like “Vespers” where a fraternity is likened to a monastery and the clever twist of words and descriptions blends the two images seamlessly with an eerie and familiar ending to “Left Alone” a chilling story about a young man yearning for his dead lover who appears to him as a ghost once a year. These stories and others have an inherent cleverness to their prose and settings that trick the reader with possibilities and opportunities beyond the obvious. The writing creates stories within the stories just waiting to be discovered upon reading.
Berman shows that humor and magic can exist simultaneously with a touch of hope and whimsy in the story “His Paper Doll”. This delightful tale of a young man that creates a paper voodoo doll of magazine images only to discover the man exists combines creativity with the romance of youth to remind readers of a first crush. Conversely, “Stormed and Taken in Prague” is a darker story with a vivid energy imbued in the prose and writing. The horrified fascination with the seedier side of raves with a magical twist depicts the true fear of addiction and the various forms it can take. The reader, much like the main character, is helplessly drawn to the dark side and can’t resist submitting to its unforgiving yet fascinating ending.
Returning to the futuristic, urban fantasy world are several connected stories appearing at the end of the collection. Each of these takes place in the utterly riveting world after the Fall and depicts magic with whimsy and cruelty alongside passion. The endless creativity and uniqueness to this world creates chills of horror, fear, and delight. The most enticing character, Caleb, slips in and out of each tale just enough to tease without giving him the attention he clearly craves. The endless twists and stunning imagery such as a young man with blood like silk that creates spiders when spilled, fill these stories with almost overwhelming detail. Be sure to read these carefully as you won’t want to miss the subtly and clever complexity woven into each.
My favorite of the group is without argument “Path of Corruption” where a young college student is seduced by a hustler and falls into a dark coven. This story has also appeared in other anthologies, like many of these stories, so this was my second time reading the tale. It only improves upon time and the level of detail and horrified fascination rises upon each reading. The characters and their relationship are addictive in their complex reality and powerful attraction. Destructive or necessary, this story creates a wealth of emotion brought out in the simplest of phrases and chilling images.
Overall this is another highly successful collection from Berman that slides deeper into the dark reality of his imagination and creativity. The variety in the stories extends from theme to voice, style, and writing but the common thread throughout is passion. Sometimes dark, sometimes whimsical these characters will grip the reader without letting up.
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