Chambers of the Heart: Speculative Stories
B. Morris Allen
Plant Based Press (2022)
Reviewed by Amy Lignor for Reader Views (03/2022)
Although this heartfelt collection is categorized as “speculative” or abstract fiction, I have to say the author has hit every emotion and done so in such a unique way that I felt as if some stories were pure, factual, truth—truth that resonated to my very core.
The author begins by leading me into my own heart. He shows me the veins and ventricles—those chambers that hold not only who I am, but what I feel, what I believe, what I question and, perhaps most of all, what I have faith in. The most powerful question being: Do I have faith in myself?
In the very first story, the author used my familiar surroundings to speak about emotions—with ecstasy being a small room in a secluded cottage that, when you look out the window, you see Mother Nature’s beauty and intensity. A broad, colorful, expansive meadow and the immense trees of the forest that encircle it all. On the flip side, he brings to life something I, personally, have always believed when he explains the emotion of despair. I am from a small town where the snow and ice cling to everything and winter lasts far too long. The author brings that scene that’s eternally stuck in my head to life, with despair being the dark, endless hall that offers low ceilings and small windows. And out of those windows you see nothing; it is gray because of the snowdrifts that cover the panes and refuse to melt. He moves forward to tell me a story that includes everything from a Master’s throne to a “Hall of Longing” and I found myself mesmerized by his speculative, yet very factual story in my eyes.
A number of tales follow that I will reread over and over again because they touched me that much; they made me think, just as this collection will do for the rest of the readers out there who want to feel, gasp at the sights and sounds, and learn more about themselves and others.
As an added gift, after each one of this writer’s stories, he places a small “note” regarding how this particular tale came to be. At the end of reading and enjoying the magical, musical world introduced in “Minstrel Boy Howling at the Moon,” for example, the author speaks of the late singer/songwriter, Jimmy LaFave, and how the title of this story came from LaFave’s Highway Trance album.
“Memory and Faded Ink” opens doors to readers and reveals aliens, showing all their negatives and flaws, making them just like human beings. A house built from tears is introduced; an abandoned temple; a new “take” on the jar half-empty/half-full proverb; a unique dog you will remember forever—this collection encompasses sci-fi, romance, action, drama, tragedy — you name it, the genre you like can be found here.
Ending the collection with a story that was just as monumentally intense as the one that opens the book, the author presents “Dragons I Have Slain.” At its core, the “lesson” in this one is to find and leap on hope wherever you can find it; even if it’s in the strangest of places. This is the story of a hero to some, yet, inside, this hero feels the overwhelming guilt of being the collector of dragon tears. These tears seep through his skin, causing sorrow and misery to take him over, even though the townspeople see this person as being their savior. We learn of the “Dragon Atlas” where all the kills they’ve made are marked in their exact locations, never to be forgotten. An incredible line about dragons reads: “We think of them as wise and cold, but wisdom is no antidote to empathy.” Think about that; a line that can be used in many different scenarios, reminding us that compassion is necessary, whether it be for dragons, a slayer of them, or the real humans of today who wield the power to bring down misery upon our heads.
As I said, this is a visual, beautiful, heartfelt book that makes you think. It is never boring; the tales do not reprimand or demand readers to believe in one thing or another; and it does not slow to a crawl or try to pretend it is some form of “self-help” guide. These stories are powerful and extremely memorable. “5-Stars!”