cover image Vessel and Solsvart

Vessel and Solsvart

Berit Ellingsen. Snuggly, $10 trade paper (110p) ISBN 978-1-943813-26-1

Ellingsen (Not Dark Yet) compiles five sparse but creepy fantasy tales in this slim collection. The title story follows “worm-eaten” human Vessel and his bird companion, Solsvart, as they travel through devastated landscapes. The emptiness gives way to danger in a tar-covered land, suggesting an ecological source of all the destruction. In “Among the Living and the Dead,” peasants warn away the doctor brought in to heal their lord. “Apotheosis” combines failed hope for immortality with a reflection on going to the movies. In “Blue Star, Singular Fire,” three astral explorers examine a dangerous foreign planet. “Summer Dusk, Winter Moon” coldly describes the use of human bait to lure a slithering monster away from city dwellers and toward an indifferent mythical hero. Viewpoints shift throughout the collection, offering unique angles and meditations on hostile worlds. The variety of settings and characters shows an impressive imagination at work, though the briefer pieces feel somewhat rushed. Ellingsen’s prose is simple and precise without much space for metaphor; it sometimes obscures who or what is speaking, enhancing eeriness at the expense of story. Readers will have their curiosity piqued, but the lack of depth and sometimes harsh writing will leave them unsatisfied. (Mar.)