Monday, March 10, 2008

Book Review: A Different Voice: Fiction by Young Filipino Writers edited by Vicente Garcia Groyon

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free book reviews.

I had difficulty tracking down this book (and irony of ironies: it's more difficult to acquire a Philippine publication from your local bookstore than an imported one) and it's only by a fluke of fate that I managed to borrow a copy (apparently one of my officemates is a contributor). It's honestly too bad that the book is not so readily available because it's a good collection of short stories (that doesn't necessarily deal with the fantastic) from the country's "young", new writers. There are twenty stories in this anthology with five being reprints from not-so-accessable publications. What's immediately noticeable is the layout and the design is to be commended because it satisfies most of my criteria on what makes a good anthology (in terms of aesthetics). For the big low-down, I found that many of the stories here were quite satisfactory. The writing quality is even and while there are some stories which was a bit dragging for me to read, they are few. For the most part, there are several "good" stories here and a couple of excellent stories that caused me to carefully deliberate my top three stories. What impressed me the most, especially considering I've read some of her previous work, was Francezca C. Kwe's "A Ghost Story", which, in my opinion, was one of her best works. It's not necessarily the story that'll draw you in immediately but it embodies the craft of the well-written story as well as good characterization. "The Last Days of Magic" by Ian Rosales Casocot is a runner-up with the charm of his writing that makes it quite accessible yet profound. "Hang Ups" by Francis Paolo M. Quina is this compelling, erotic story told in the second person--normally a difficult feat to execute but Quina manages to successfully implement it. Overall, I think this is a strong collection of local fiction written in English. It's not necessary the type that latches on to you immediately but it's a good place to find excellent writing.

Rating: 3.5/5.

Rating System:

1 - There are better ways to spend your time.
2 - Ho hum books, usually typical of its genre. Probably only recommendable to die-hard fans.
3 - A cut above the rest, usually with one or more elements that sets it apart from the norm.
4 - Highly recommended and is easily a pioneer of the genre.
5 - A classic or it will be.

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