Vistas: Chris Kelso
Reviewed By J.A. Sullivan
Science fiction is a genre I tend to shy away from reading. Partly because some of the plotlines are so plausible, they scare the crap out of me, and partly because I often don’t feel smart enough to truly grasp the ideas explored. Both scenarios happened while exploring Vistas, a collection of seven short stories by Chris Kelso, but I enjoyed every uncomfortable moment.
Each entry in this book is wildly different not only in terms of plot, themes, and characters but also in the style of writing. I didn’t expect to find poetic prose, humour, and surrealism all in the same book, let alone all from the same author, and in a weird way, this change of style was exactly what kept me glued to the pages.
One of the stories that really grabbed me was “T/R/OLL” which is stylized like a Reddit thread. Beginning with a post by EasyBoi asking if anyone else is experiencing glitches in a smart doorbell, there are typical smartass responses from other users, and then a genuine offer to help look at the system. But after one of the users stops posting, and an uploaded image is taken down by admins, the story gets even stranger. From the usernames to the language of responses, the author’s attention to detail was incredible and I felt like I was reading an actual Reddit thread.
While the above story felt rooted in reality, on the flip side “The Dream Reporters” felt like pure imagination. This tale follows a reporter and cameraman as they literally travel through the subconscious mind of the esteemed writer Dechaume. In this dreamscape, the reporter is hoping to witness the end of Dechaume’s writer’s block, but instead finds horrors lurking in the subject’s psyche. The mind of a creative person is indeed a terrifying sight to see!
“The Retreat” also deals with an artist, but in a completely different way. The story is told through a series of log entries as Rana-Ahmad, Sabahu An-Nui travels from Earth to Europa for an artist retreat, with only a cat for company. She reflects on love, pain, loss, and religion in her writings. Some days are beautiful and poetic, such as, “I slash the air with my brush and paint strikes the silica tiles of the shuttle wall, like a galaxy’s unribboning. More trails. A map to find me if you really wanted to. A painting full of fantasy and hope. Things that aren’t real unless we make them.” Other entries are stripped down and genuine, like “Cats don’t expect shit.” While this entry is the only one without clear elements of horror, it does deal with grief and loneliness which are frightening in their own way.
Vistas is the first collection of work I’ve read by Chris Kelso, but it certainly won’t be my last. If you’re looking for something engaging and different, I highly recommend picking up this book.
On today’s excursion: bear witness to a realm where transhuman video store-clerks can project their souls at will. Occult Detectives get lost in Lagos. Or simply hop aboard a writers retreat on the good ship, Zarathustra.
There’s a new vista for everyone.
We hope you enjoy the view.
J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could.
Her latest short story can be found in Don’t Open the Door: A Horror Anthology (out July 26, 2019), and other spooky tales can be found on her blog. She’s currently writing more short stories, a novel, and reading as many dark works as she can find.
You can follow J. A. on Twitter @ScaryJASullivan
Check out her blog https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com
Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan