The Portland Book Review’s Take on Chimera

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Outside of Amazon, this is the first official review of Chimera. It’s always fascinating for a writer to see his work critiqued by an impartial observer. With no context and no connection to the book’s creator, the reviewer can only judge the book on its own merits and nothing else. The author and reviewer are strangers to one another, and only the book speaks between them. I like this summary of Chimera. The criticisms, I think, serve to show the originality of the collection. Some misinterpretation is expected for any project of complexity; what’s most important is that the dispassionate judge enjoyed the experience, unburdened by obligation as she was. -JM 

 

Chimera is a collection of four short stories and one novelette, all written by Julian Mihdi. These stories focus on both the benign and the extraordinary. One story, “Follow the Scroll”, has its protagonist chatting with the likes of Bugs Bunny and Marilyn Monroe, all while providing commentary on how present-day people cannot tear themselves away from their phone screens. “A Search in Siam” presents a blue deity who appears to an American man in Thailand, which depicts how society these days will do anything to turn a profit. These stories use vivid language, carefully crafted details, and an array of characters to weave Mihdi’s words into five stories that the audience will find themselves certainly invested in reading.

The author kicks off his book with a Foreword, where he explains that the title comes from a character in The Iliad. This part-lion, part-goat, part-snake creature breathed fire and guarded the gates of the underworld. Mihdi explains how the word went on to become a symbol of human fabrication or, much like the word chimerical, wildly fanciful or highly unrealistic. This definition hits three of the five stories in this book right on the nose. “A Search in Siam” and “Follow the Scroll” clearly fall within those guidelines, as does “Second Life of a Tyrant,” where a man stumbles across a fled Nazi and must make a decision on what to do. Yes, these three stories all fit the definition of the word chimerical quite well.

However, the fourth short story, “Shedd Wilson, Antiques,” tells of a man who’s reminiscing on the past and misses his deceased wife – altogether, it does not feel magical or visionary like the other three stories. Neither does the novelette in the collection, “The Scorekeeper,” which tells of a man named Noel in search of answers about his dead father who used to be a basketball player. While these two stories don’t necessarily feel like they fit with the theme of this collection, they’re still well written and highly enjoyable – especially “Scorekeeper.”

It’s clear right off the bat that Mihdi has a way with words. Each one of his stories uses a bounty of language to depict settings, characters, and themes. Color plays a key part in all of his stories, as the author gives focus to color in each one of the book’s portions. While Mihdi has a strong command of the English language, at times it does feel a bit overbearing. The four short stories are all written in thick, block paragraphs, and while compelling, the bulky text makes it a bit of a sludge to get through at times. There’s also some confusing shifts in tense in “Shedd Wilson,” with the author switching from first to third person, sometimes in the middle of a paragraph, without any indication as to why.

Although the stories can feel a bit dense to go through at times, all five are beautifully written. Chimera makes for a compelling short read for anyone looking to delve into these fantastical worlds mirroring the realities of life.

~Julia Gaskill

 

Chimera by Julian Mihdi

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