Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Should We Drown in Feathered Sleep by Michael Merriam

TITLE: Should We Drown in Feathered Sleep
AUTHOR: Michael Merriam
PUBLISHER: Carina Press
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 18k)
GENRE: Futuristic fantasy
COST: $2.69

Crippled as a teenager, Grace survives in her post-apocalyptic world as best she can, but time is beginning to weaken her defenses against those who see her as a burden. While she sleeps, she hears the mysterious loons whose magic governs human’s new way of life. Nobody else can, and the annual meeting to sacrifice one of their own to them is upon them…

One of my resolutions this year is to be pickier about which books I read, and by read, I mean actually finish and review. I started two before settling on this short novella, one that was DNF and one that left too little to talk about to waste time on a review. My hopes are that it’ll give me a lot more to be excited about this year than I was last.

This short futuristic fantasy from Carina is a solid entry into those ranks. It’s the story of Grace Kriske, a young woman in her twenties who has been stuck in a wheelchair since she was a rebellious thirteen. She’s still rebellious, hating to be waited on, but she is slowly losing her strength to beat against those odds. Sometimes, she dreams that she can hear the mysterious loons that reputedly populate a nearby lake. These same loons are the focus of an annual ritual whereby locals and traders meet up at the lakeside, conduct a lottery amongst the citizens, and send the chosen one to the loons. Supposedly, it’s to give something back to the community, but those who are chosen don’t seem to benefit from it. At the meet-up, Grace gets to see her once a year lover David, but it’s there, too, she discovers something that will change her life forever.

Because of the story’s brevity, to give away too much of the details would spoil what happens. That’s a shame, because it’s those plot twists, even in such a short space, that add to its compelling nature. What I can say is that the authorial voice is by far the strongest aspect of it. The tone is ethereal and melancholy, very much matching Grace’s mood and emotions, with haunting details that seep from every page. It sucked me in, even when I had lingering questions about what was going on and what the loons part in it all was. It definitely makes me want to seek out more of this author’s work, since a unique voice is often so hard to find.

What I wish worked better was the exposition side of the story. Some details are skimmed over or simply not given at all, and the resolution, while a natural progression from the plot, occurs too abruptly and with little emotional arc. I imagine a good number of these weaker aspects are due to the story’s short length. I don’t think it should’ve been a novel by any means, but perhaps just a thousand or two more words might have answered enough of my questions to anchor me more securely within its world. It would have enriched some of the secondary characterizations as well, giving David a bit more depth for me to understand Grace’s complex feelings for him, or to help differentiate the various elders amongst the others.

Still, it made a welcome change to read something that takes more risks than typical genre fiction. I’ve also found a new author to check out, which is always a bonus.


8/10 – An ethereal, melancholy voice only hampered by not quite enough exposition


7/10 – Grace has the best job of this, since she’s the protagonist, but some of the more important secondary characters tend to blur


7/10 – Not as clear as it could’ve been, and the resolution was a little abrupt

Entertainment value

8/10 – I enjoyed this more for the mood and authorial voice than the story

World building

7/10 – The background wasn’t quite clear enough to provide the clearest picture of the present, but the details provided were evocative and lovely



1 comment:

Michael Merriam said...


Thank you for reviewing "Should We Drown in Feathered Sleep." If you are interested in reviewing my novel, "Last Car to Annwn Station," also published by Carina Press, I would be pleased to email you a copy in whatever ereader format you prefer. If you are interested, please contact me at