Sunday, April 27, 2014

Review: "War By Candlelight" by Daniel Alarcon

It seems rather appropriate that the way I feel about one 20 Under 40 author’s book of short stories, in this case my recent review of Chris Adrian’s A Better Angel, is the same way that I feel about another 20 Under 40’s book of short stories, with Daniel Alarcon’s debut book, War By Candlelight being his best all around book. In both collections, there are a few missteps that cannot be ignored, and each are far from perfect, but each brought an overall enjoyment over the course of a few days. Each collection is far better than the novels that the authors have produced, with the stories in Alarcon’s book showing a slight violent edge that were only hinted at in Lost City Radio, and completely absent in At Night We Walk in Circles. Hew writes about his war town homeland with vim and vigor, and even when the stories are not perfect, they can’t help but feel alive with fire and passion. Some highlights from this collection include the opening story “Flood”, where a flood in a rural village in Lima, Peru forces a group of kids into a form of gang warfare that lands them in prison for a few dangerous and life altering days. The title story, which could have been trimmed by at least 10 or so pages, farms similar territory in the adult world using altering chapters to represent different points in the life of the narrator. And despite it’s unoriginality, “Third Avenue Suicide”, about a mixed race couple whose attraction dwindles as illness and secrecy rule their lives, remains fresh and packs a punch. My favorite story in this collection is “Lima, Peru, July 28, 1979”, where a night of revolutionary action turns ugly and immoral. It is swift violent, and like Chris Adrian’s “Stab”, it’s Alarcon’s best work. Check this collection out if you can, it made me rethink Alarcon’s place in modern literature.

Rating: 4/5

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