Friday, February 08, 2008

Magazine Review: Story Philippines 2008 Vol. 1

The latest issue of Story Philippines contains six stories in English--interestingly enough four of them possibly qualifying as speculative fiction--as well as an events column in the last page. Here's a short review of the stories:

"Isabel Jimeno's Price" by Jonathan Jimena Siason starts out strong and involves the story of a whore and her client. It is reminiscent of one of Neil Gaiman's short stories--"Tastings" if I'm not mistaken--at least in concept but Siason more than makes up for it with his execution and sensual narrative.

"Sonia Makes a Baby" by Rebecca Arcega employs a minimalist narrative writing style and she uses some elements of magic-realism. The characterization of her main protagonist is the focus of the story and she pulls it off well enough. The story ends at just the right moment despite the lack of closure.

"Divergence" by Rhea Politado is a well-written story but my complaint is that it was uninteresting for me. But make no mistake, Politado pays attention to detail and her writing is solid. It's just that the slow pacing and the lack of an apparent conflict (although there is a subtle one) simply isn't to my tastes.

"Princes of the Sultanate" by Dean Francis Alfar is pretty much an unconventional story, with the actual narrative taking place in the footnotes rather than the actual body of the text. In a way, the story is a mini-epic of sorts, with romance, the falling of kingdoms, and succession wars--all in the span of a few thousand words.

"Fidela" by Erin K. Entrada gives us a compelling story that happens in the span of five fictional days. The strength of Entrada are her characters she knows how to build them up, using passages from the earlier parts of the story to build up to a satisfying end. My personal opinion is that she could have done away with the last two lines of the story but that aside, this was an outstanding read.

"My Father's Store" by R. Kwan Laurel manages to capture a specific aspect of Philippine culture and shows us the perspectives of two distinct characters. Laurel's writing style is competent enough and for some people, this might be the weakest story in the magazine (but only because the rest are that good) but I found the narrative to be quite compelling and enjoyable.

Overall, the latest issue of Story Philippines is actually quite good and all of the stories have left a distinct impression. When it comes to "literariness", the magazine lives up to that particular expectation. As far as my favorites go, it's a tie between "Princes of the Sultanate" and "Fidela", the former for sheer pleasure and style while the latter won me over with technique.

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.


Gato Cat said...

wow, great reviews, Charles. :)

Chinachix said...

interesting review. cant wait to get my copy!