cover image The Affliction

The Affliction

C. Dale Young. Four Way (UPNE, dist.), $17.95 trade paper (154p) ISBN 978-1945588-06-8

In Young’s intriguing debut, memorable protagonists are introduced in individual stories before their worlds converge. In the title story, an otherwise ordinary man named Javier Castillo has the ability to disappear and reappear at will. The knowledge of this is a burden to his friend Ricardo, who tries to tell others about Javier’s talent but is never believed. A different kind of invisibility afflicts Leenck in “The Experiment”: an entire town lives under a kind of pall of impending doom, more debilitating for its lack of specificity. For his part, young Leenck—without logical explanation—expects to be felled by his father’s axe at any moment. “Inside the Great House” documents the life of “crazy old Cassie,” who starts as a nun but ultimately communes with the devil. “The Fortunate” follows the elderly Flora Diaz, who is a bit of a mystic and a figure of some authority to her neighbor Rosa, who becomes obsessively dependent on Flora’s perceived psychic gifts. People and things in Rosa’s world appear or disappear, without seeming logic. Significantly, near the end of “The Experiment,” there is a passing reference to Ricardo. In the subsequent six stories, there’s more overlap of characters, more drama, and more manifestations of the affliction (though it’s never explained), giving the whole volume the feel of a set of nesting dolls. Young’s opacity can sometimes frustrate, but he consistently creates an effectively menacing mood, uniting all the strange stories in a satisfying manner. [em](Mar.) [/em]