Day Gazing, by Carla Herrera.

I loved these intense short stories. In several of them, beautifully sketched characters find themselves drawn, thrown, or simply awakened into inexplicably weird situations. I especially liked the pair called ‘Freedom/Stairs’, depicting protagonists choosing opposite coping strategies (‘Stairs’, especially, is a greatly empathic story). ‘The Protector’ is another sharp tale of unexpected and exciting new possibilities, while ‘Bunker Test’ and ‘White Room’ are in her wheelhouse of personal apocalypse. Highly recommended.

Note: I found this while perusing new free ebooks using a new Android app, SmashwordsAccess, developed by UnleashYourAdventure, after which I rushed to purchase her other books available on Smashwords, including Pink Eye.


Blue Tent, by Carla R. Herrera, available from Smashwords

One of the things that annoys me about most dystopias is the way they usually just start from a blank slate. They’ll wipe out everybody on the planet except for a handful of white, english-speaking young people and take it from there. Often, the back story of ‘how we got there’ is treated pretty lightly, leaping right over the realities of the struggles and the suffering that had to occur, but it simply isn’t that easy to get from here to there. Even the Black Death killed only about a third of the population of Europe, and those who died suffered horribly while those who survived were devastated in many ways. There’s no great ‘survival of the fittest’, ‘uberman-libertarian’ stuff going on. It’s miserable and hard and there are no shortcuts through it.

If you want to know what dystopias are really like in this world, you need look no farther than countries in the midst of civil war. In such conditions, the lowest of the low are kicked the hardest while the strong dominate with ferocity and terror, and they, the strong, are also the rich, meaning those who are rich now, not you or me in our Horatio Alger fantasies. The rest of the people, the ninety nine percent as it were, are those who are going to feel the pain. The only way out for them is to band together and fight, but such unity is difficult to come by and the fight is often to the death. Divide and conquer is a proven ruling methodology, and so is outright brutality. You can witness the former first hand right now through the phony ‘red states’ versus ‘blue states’ in the USA, when conditions are not even so bad, and the latter, as of this writing, in places like Syria.

Imagine, then, that the current trends towards greater inequality and higher base levels of unemployment and permanent underemployment of the youth continue on the course they’re on now. The next Great Depression is going to look different from the last, but who wants to think about it? We don’t see it in our fiction or in our films. We’d rather blow right past all this reality stuff and get to the wild primordial wilderness. But somebody’s got to tell it like it is, or rather, how it could be. We’ve relied in the past on books like this – “1984”, for example, or “A Handmaid’s Tale”, or “It Can’t Happen Here”. They are rare enough, but stories that reflect the way we’re headed as in a truth-telling mirror are often startling and stunning. “Blue Tent” is like this.

It’s a powerful story, one that I felt in the pit of my stomach as I got to the end. The characters are vivid and more than believable, as are the settings and events. This is no “do-over dystopia”. It’s a real one. Highly recommended.

“Two”, by Carla Herrera, available now from Smashwords

What if there were a secret society guiding the affairs of mankind? Such a myth has long attracted the popular mind, from the Freemasons and their mysterious symbols adorning American currency, to the Rosicrucians guarding the hidden family of the cross-surviving Christ, to the Trilateral Commission, that conspiracy of businessmen and politicians who control and own the world. The notion has appealed to writers as diverse as Balzac and Lovecraft, and has wormed its way into Birthers and Truthers and Kennedy assassination theorists, and even anti-vaccination-hippie-homeschooling cults. But what if there were, and what if this hidden group had succeeded so well it had transformed the woodland barbarians of Bavaria into the high tech civilization of today? Slowly, one step at a time, through the centuries, this cabal has guided mankind to its present lofty perch.

And now what? Where do you go once you reach the top? Having succeeded, perhaps beyond its wildest dreams, is this organization now obsolete, overcome by events, with nothing left to do but oversee its own dismantlement? What kind of bureaucracy would assent to such a course? Oh no, they could never be satisfied with their achievement if it meant spelling out their own imminent doom. They would want to keep tinkering, keep toying, keep pursuing some goal, any goal, as long as it meant perpetuating their own key roles. They might well become, by virtue of their own capability, no longer the greatest benefactor of humanity, but instead its greatest threat. Who but some among their own could stand in their way?

This compelling novel weaves a story previously unimagined, as far as I know, which is the greatest compliment I know – to see possibilities around the corner that have hardly been glimpsed before. Carla Herrera has a knack for doing just that. In ‘Two’ she has crafted a new legend-in-the-making, and I suspect its readers will be expecting more to come.


Tesla’s Secret


It is well-known that Nikola Tesla was an astoundingly brilliant inventor-engineer-scientist whose true life story is quite fascinating and well-worth reading about. He is also a great character for fiction, especially science fiction, as it’s easy to believe him to be capable of anything, After all, he was decades ahead in many ways, including his concept of a global wireless broadband network. Who knows what incredible gadgets he may have tinkered with and left behind in some basement somewhere? That is where this short story, Tesla’s Secret, by Carla Herrera, begins. A woman and her daughter come across such a device in a hotel whose owner wants nothing to do with the crappy-looking ancient machine. Messing around with it, they accidentally find it to be a sort of seance generator, able to bring back the spirit and form of dead people, but only for a brief period, a few minutes at most. I love what Carla does with this idea. Naturally, the first thing you think of is, who to bring back to talk to? The mother and daughter have very different ideas, and their disagreements and mutual disapprovals make for a very funny and entertaining story. The nature of the machine itself, its  limitations and side effects, are also interesting. Available on Smashwords and highly recommended!