Issue 26

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Issue 22

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Issue 19

Chrysalis
Lauren Halkon

Prime Books 2005 ISBN: 1 894815 73 4

As anyone can see from even a cursory glance at this issue of VT, Lauren’s creativity and talent is equally at home either visually or in prose, and Chrysalis is a lighthouse tour de force beacon into a world of simmering short stories. From the onset with ‘Those who decide’, a chilling exposé of the afterlife, Chrysalis sends you careening into the rest of the collection which is divided up into three sections mirroring the complete cycle of emotions in a stunning array of versatile fiction. ‘Siren’ for example, provides a unique slant of that old chestnut of a child jealous of the arrival of a younger sibling, while the bleak reality of bedsit angst and depression is captured in the powerful ‘Empty’. Chrysalis therefore launches you Phoenix like into the dreamscape of Lauren Halkon and her assemble of finely tuned observed characters. In ‘Projection’ for example, the author brings to life the idea of the creative temperament unable to compete with its demons while with ‘Blind’ Lauren weaves a splendidly murderous tale obsessed with the concept that the eyes really are window of a person’s soul. The murder theme continues with ‘Giver-Taker’, but typically is turned once more into it’s head with a sensitive painting of the taker of human life and the expulsion she feels and is dealt with, by society. Ironically, it’s this doomed characters power to bring salvation to her victim that draws this tale to its shuddering release.
The second section of this collection is entitled Metamorphosis, and the change is noticeable in the story ‘Horizon’ that opens into a darkly futuristic tale where the miracle of birth has been raped of all hope, and even one feels, of purpose. Following hot on its heels is the remarkable ‘Little Death’ an incredibly powerful and complex tale packed into seven pages. Readers of issue 17 of VT will be pleasantly surprised to see Lauren’s past submission to the magazine, ‘They say I am evil’ featured in this collection, as fresh and as interesting as when I first read it, and given a much greater depth sitting as it does in the middle of this section of the collection. ‘Waiting for angels’ deals with one man’s guilt and his inability to escape his fate, even in the harshest of environments and in isolation, whilst ‘Automata’ hovers around a poignant morality tale that casts doubt on if humans have any true humanity at all, or if its our sole domain.
Increasingly you realise that Lauren is using an immense canvas to draw upon, and to draw you into her collection. Whilst each story in the collection is stand alone as befits tales written over a number of years, together they act upon your senses, with recurrent (but never repetitive) themes. The final section of Chrysalis turns its attention to majestic conclusions, personified by the excellent ‘Dreamer’, set in a pre-industrial society chillingly like our own, the tale weaves a thought provoking environmental message interwoven with magic and continued in the final short story ‘Golden Apples’. In these last two pages, Chrysalis makes it conclusion, that humanity destroys, schemes and dominates, yet holds within itself a small kernel of hope should any awakening ever happen. Like the eponymous title of the collection, we all are halfway through our destiny, our fate and our fulfilment. Let’s hope we can all open our eyes before it gets dark.

Review by Jamie Spracklen