A review of Charity Bradford’s “Stellar Cloud”
This book is a little jarring. It took me a while to figure out how to describe it. I clearly enjoyed Stellar Cloud, (4 Whatzits after all). But it’s jarring. There are a lot of cliff-hangers in this collection. Because of the lack of resolution in many of them, and their length being a little on the short side, your brain wants to make sense of them all—as though they represent some sort of timeline or multiple perspectives at the same time. But they are separate tales and you get left with a lot of loose ends. I’m sure this is sounding completely negative, but it gives this collection a rare feel. We don’t see a bunch of fairy tales wrapping up neatly and happily. We see desolate, dark, and depressing futures with people in horrible positions who may or may not be okay in the end. And on more than one occasion you simply don’t know what happens. It sort of feels like channel-surfing, clicking to the next show seconds before the last one ended.
While the word I stuck with is jarring, I truly enjoyed the ride Bradford takes us on. Once you get three stories in or so, your brain stops trying to consolidate it all. And then you can embrace Bradford’s style. In just a few short pages, she can acclimate you to an entirely new environment; give you characters you can relate to; put them through something stressful, scary, or simply awful; and move you along to the next. Though each tale is a touch short, they don’t feel rushed. It’s not easy to balance the introduction and the adventure, but she excels at it. She can keep her stories tight and to the point, never going off on a tangent that drags things out too much.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a touch of the dark side. There is next to no romance here, and I think that’s for the best. It’s a mix of violence and psychological roller coasters. Starting with a war zone, it’s clearly not for the faint of heart. But down the road you move to a hive-mind world that has nothing but a peaceful transition into the hive and yet I think that one sent the most shivers down my spine. Any phobia you may have, you’ll likely come across here. It will get under your skin and the fact that many leave off at what feels like a crucial plot point will leave you on the edge of your seat (as cliché as that is).
Bradford knows how to tell a story and I truly appreciated the variety in her collection. She creates strong characters in amazing worlds. It’s a book I would read again and I look forward to reading more by her. There are definitely a few tales here that I’d love to see her flesh out into full novels. While the cliff-hangers and unknowns are great, some of the characters definitely piqued my interest and I’d enjoy reading more about them.