Winterland, a novella by Mike Duran, is part psychological fantasy, part intrapersonal suspense, and part allegorical thriller. Think Pilgrim meets the Phantom Tollbooth, but in Purgatory. The premise works well enough - and has since Dante took his journey of redemption - but as in many allegory-esque tales, the tension slips now and again due to the inevitable and somewhat predictable outcome. (But hey, we all knew Dorothy would return from Oz, so this doesn't necessarily mean this type of story can't work.)
Duran is a solid writer (his novel, Resurrection, is published by Charisma House) and the opening hook pulls you in fairly quickly. Our heroine, Eunice, on her way to see her dying mother, winds up in a car accident on a SoCal freeway. She slips into a between-worlds darker dimension (Winterland being the opposite of the Faery's cheerful Summerland) where she must reach her mother before it's too late! (See what I mean about the tension level? At this point I started skimming a bit to get to the action that never quite reaches a climax.)
Along the way, Eunice has to travel through the Swamp of Mlaise and face her family's generational demons of license, legalism, perfectionism, and regret. While not a straight up Everyman tale, the symbolism is fairly transparent. But again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just a particular style of storytelling, one that I'm not overly fond of. I'd give it a 6 out of 10, but if you like your morality fables spiced up with a bit of suspense, this novella might be right for you. It's competently self-published and at $2 isn't a bad bargain.
(Note: I received a free promotional copy of Winterland with no obligation to review it. Mike Duran blogs about Faith, Culture, and Composition at deCOMPOSE.)
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