The twelve burning wheels
25 April 2010
In between novels, the author Cesar Torres decided to write one piece of micro-fiction a day for twelve days. The Twelve Burning Wheels, as his collection names the result, are a surreal, violent, unsettling and yet sometimes tender set of dark fantasy stories that range from the family caprices of a celebrity magician and the whisperings of a mythic witch to the technical specifications of a sinister iPhone app and a rock band searching for its last apocalyptic inspiration. Really, those must have been some twelve days.
Wheels are an apposite description. Themes and images interlock one piece with another (the vermiphobic and arachnophobic have been warned). In the stories’ contemporary setting, magic constitutes the commonplace world, and the characters’ vanities create the bizarre. Hubris stands to be punished; those who refuse to impose their human will over nature find peace. One or two protagonists become so unlikeable in the course of a few pages that you wish for them to meet the bloodiest end they can.
Some of the stories beg for more space to unfold. ‘Mantis Love’, told through diary extracts and text message conversations, captures two small-town teenagers (digital-age Ray Bradbury boys waiting for their innocence to vanish) who happen to be in love with each other. There’s a grandfather we don’t see, and an enchanted motorcycle that we do, though briefly. ‘Victoria’ and ‘Tincture DRK-01’ tempt humans with science and dramatise the effects on our jealous and manipulative worst natures. At this length, the stories are snapshots not plots; the best still leave the reader haunted by some awful moral choice, and the wheels, to coin a sixties phrase, on fire.
Disclosure: electronic ARC received from author.