cover image The Shadow Galaxy

The Shadow Galaxy

J. Dianne Dotson. Trepidatio, $15.95 trade paper (142p) ISBN 978-1-68510-068-1

With these 26 dark but often unfinished-feeling pieces of prose and poetry, Dotson (The Questrison Saga) introduces readers to the natural wonders of Appalachia, creates haunting nautical legends, and sends sentient spaceships off to explore strange planets. Dotson keeps these unsettling, eerie, and occasionally full-on horrifying tales short and punchy, but often the tension buildup crescendos in the very last line, with no satisfying denouement. “I think we should run!” ends “The Scaffold,” in which a lab tech and an acclaimed scientist discover a destructive but never defined substance: but run to where? Similarly, “A Hard Landing,” in which an explorer on an unknown planet encounters boulders “which could eat a ship,” the final paragraph concludes “all she could do was wait, or run.” These tales are still undeniably entertaining, but they’ll leave readers with more questions than answers. Even the longer works, such as the historically set horror piece “The Glove and the Black Lantern,” billed by the narrator as “a cautionary tale of woe and strange tidings,” remain frustratingly surface-level in terms of worldbuilding and characterization. This collection may not fire on all cylinders, but Dotson makes a valiant attempt at containing a huge range of styles in such a small package. Agent: Laura Bennett, Liverpool Literary. (Mar.)