Friday, 26 November 2010

Transported: a review

I don't normally do reviews but I thought I should make an exception.

By way of a disclaimer, Sharazade was kind enough to review, and even be enthusiatic about, my Secret Circus book a while back. Hers has actually been out a little longer than mine but I said ages ago I'd review it - it's just taken me a while to honour the commitment.

Anyone who knows me also knows I won't mince words in a review and won't be swayed from my opinion merely because someone's said something nice about me. So it's just as well I enjoyed it and recommend it unreservedly!

Review of Transported: Erotic Travel Tales
Author: Sharazade
Fanny Press, Seattle, 2010

Available in paperback, on Kindle and in ten e-book formats from Smashwords.

This is a collection of nine short stories linked by the theme of travelling. All are told in the first person, mostly though not invariably with a female narrator. While each of the stories involves sex, all of them build to it, with tensions between the characters and implicit in the situation, before the act takes place. You get the slow burn before the sudden flash.

I liked the characters. They’re well drawn, believable, complex, with everyday concerns in their heads and flawed bodies that sometimes make them a little self-conscious – I don’t know about you, but that makes them just like me.

In ‘Schiphol’, we see a couple’s paths cross at an international airport and in the travellers’ hotel there. ‘Flaws’ deals with events on a train journey, alternating between interior monologue and narrative in a way that draws out the tensions nicely. ‘After Dinner Show’ offers useful advice for gentlemen: when attending a conference, take more than one necktie. They have multiple uses.

‘Shore Leave’ deals with an encounter on a beach. ‘Sales Pitch’ is about a worker in an airport shop, and nicely illustrates why it’s a good idea always to keep a couple of spare batteries in your pocket if you work in such a place. ‘Just Browsing’ was a finalist in the 2009 erotic fiction contest, and describes the pleasures of finding a late-night bookshop in a strange town.

‘In Flight’ is about how to stop feeling tense while flying. ‘Onsen’ takes place in Japan. This is the country where the complexity of social encounters is often not wholly recognized by Westerners, and strange, mixed emotions may surface among Westerners working there. Lastly, in ‘Layover’, the narrator isn’t travelling, but meeting someone who is. She’s spent a lot of time in and around the local airport, and has an eye for every nook and cranny where sex might be possible.

A couple of preoccupations run through the stories. Several of them contain BDSM that would be considered mild by the standards of many readers but are narrated in ways that make the scenes immediate, vivid and likely to stay in your imagination for a while. And a lot of the sex is in semi-public places, with some risk of discovery.

The stories average a shade under 4,000 words apiece – short enough to be a quick read, long enough to be savoured, depending on your mood. There are plenty of points at which dialogue or descriptions include throwaway comments that might, in themselves, spin off in a reader’s mind into some whole other fantasy - and that's neat because you can enjoy your own fantasy and then come back to finish off the story.

It’s a nicely put together collection, well written, where the enjoyment comes from the care and thought that’s been put into the way situations build, as well as in the sex scenes themselves. An excellent read for a long winter’s night. Or, of course, while on a journey!

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