Flames Of Herakleitos is a publication from publishers of Estronomicon, a fantasy, scifi, horror eZine which contains short fiction, artist showcases, interviews and book reviews. They have since branched out into publishing printed novels; Flames being one of seven currently available. With this background, it is unsurprising that Flames is embedded strongly in horror and fantasy (less so in scifi).
The cover artwork is catchy from a distance (so good for book shelves). You can see from the image it’s predominantly red, yellow, white and black - very eye catching. Unfortunately, close up, the front image looks blurry around the edges and is bland. It wouldn’t make you want to investigate the contents, and it really doesn’t do the story areas justice. A picture of a bloke with wings, with not much detail doesn’t help ’sell’ the book at all. It’s a shame, as the image of the back cover is much more impressive.
Ok, book covers don’t make or break a book (much), so how does the story hold up?
Initially, as we’re first introduced to the characters, the pace is quite slow. Somehow, due to the overly descriptive narrative, the drama of Lucy’s father burning up is lost. After a couple of chapters, we are shown another world, but the description focuses on the characters rather than the surroundings and neither the location nor the people present, came alive for me.
We have Lucy, whose father dies of spontaneous human combustion when she is young, and a police investigation which gets nowhere, all in 1969. Fast forward to 1999 and she is grown up, a self mutilating horror writer who stars in her own TV show with her goth boyfriend, the aptly named Raven. (That continually made me think of Eric Draven in The Crow). Lucy has kitted herself out with fire extinguishers, a temperature checking, water releasing mechanism in her flat and a figure hugging fire resistant suit, in anticipation of what caused her father’s death.
Luther Krell is a mage. He makes golems, creatures molded in clay, then gives them motorisation with a tablet of glyphs stuck in its mouth,a stolen soul, and some magic. He gets stuck between worlds, and his novice apprentice, Davvid, inherits Krell’s belongings, debts and his surname.
Where the story really comes alive is when the story focuses on the parallel world, where people from world one (our world) have transported into world two (the parallel world). Here, the narrative shines - the characters play off one another to hilarious effect. Lucy has to explain aspects of world one to characters in world two, she becomes more than just a two dimensional description as she interacts with people (as do most of the other characters). This mixture of characters creates friction too, which goes part way to create a good novel. Combined with the loose parallels of the two worlds, names and history for example, makes for an interesting environment.
Some of the ideas in the story strike me as original; inparticular, the way people transfer from world one to world two. Even though the characters come alive about one quarter of the way through, the narrative (the descriptions mainly) slows the pace down. There seems to be too much opening of doors, and turning, and such like.
Spaced throughout the story are unexpected revelations which, along with the decent character interaction is the only reason I kept reading. I would image this is ‘first novel blues’, and bearing in mind that Screaming Dreams are quite a small outfit, the editing role might not have been as indepth as it should have been, it could have been honed down, and tightened up into a more fulfilling read.
There is to be a sequel which I am looking forward to - the places and characters in this story could be portrayed in a way to make a more interesting and readable novel as the overall idea is worth utilising.
How about bringing some of the world two characters into our world?