Review: The 12 Burning Wheels

by Mike Griffiths

12_Burning_WheelsTorres, Cesar. The 12 Burning Wheels. (February 17, 2010) USD $7.99 (Kindle Edition: US $5.99) ISBN-13: 978-1450585545

Last summer, Cesar Torres set a goal for himself: he was going to write 12 stories in 12 days. Not only did he succeed in that goal, but he also succeeded in producing 12 imaginative, vastly different, yet highly entertaining tales.

The first story, “The Broken Chest”, is an eerie tale about a modern magician and his daughter. Torres’ words flow in a poetic fashion here, not in a matter that conceals the story, but rather heightens it. Mystery removes reality until the reader is left guessing as to what has truly occurred. The second tale in Burning Wheels is “The Scryer”. This story is a crazed mind-trip, where Torres quickly creates a world no one would want to live in, where sometimes, losing you virginity is the worst thing that can happen to you. His third tale, “Honey”, brings to mind the internal conflicts of a berserker. As the title implies, sweet words linger, somehow making the most horrible of trials seem like lovely, bestowed gifts.

“Mantis Love” is a story where the author mixes two young men in love, unicycles, and an all-out brawl at their senior prom. What more do you need? The next story, “Madrie Catrina”, is set in the ocean off of Baja California. What is the mysterious cause of the shadow lurking under the water, far too large to be any whale?

“Victoria” is an inventive story set many decades into the future. Within this story, we discover that Victoria has an unusual job: she disposes of the toxin wastes that are created when the rich dine on human flesh. Then we get to “Tincture DRK-01”. In this tale, a woman sells love potions, but not any normal love potions; these have a special insurance policy in the form of a nasty parasite. “Dig Your Own Hole” follows. This is an eerie tale; one could certainly consider it horror. A small boy must dig his own hole, because if he doesn’t, the creatures he hears in the walls will come and do something horrible to him.

“Lemonade: An Electronic Opera In Six Parts” comes next. First off, any time someone uses anything with the name “Tezcatlipoca”, they get twenty extra kudos. This might be the most intense tale in the volume. Chaos mixes with brutality and touches impossibility. Images of Vance’s “Eyes Of The Overworld” come to mind, as young Anubis leaves the kingdom of his birth to travel through the realms of insanity. This odd story packs a real punch and, if you were to read a whole book as strange as this, it could permanently warp your mind.

The tenth story is called “Conversation With An Elephant”. In this strange tale, the final moments of a once-popular band create, or perhaps summon, something more dangerous for the crowd than being in the front lines of an open-seating Who concert. The lineup continues with “We Merge”. This seems more like a sliver of a story. Like someone took a bite out of a dark fantasy novel and spit it onto the page. Where it began, and will end, is left unclear, but the images are sharp and terrifying.

“Machina” is more of a comedy piece. What if a machine could interpret your dreams for you? Would people like it? Would they agree? Would individuals in our spoon-fed answer age scramble for such a thing, or reject this intrusion into our spirituality?

Overall, these stories are quite a chaotic mix of entertainment. They are also quick, bite-sized pieces and would be great for e-reading on the subway or perhaps during a break at work. Cesar Torres might be ahead of his time with this work. It is quite possible that intense little bite-sized stories like these could be in line with the direction of the future of reading. With e-readers becoming more popular and Internet reading creating a shorter attention span, stories like these could be what people start looking for. They are flashy and pack a punch, but you can finish them while eating a sandwich on your lunch break or while waiting for a ride.

Whether your busy schedule makes you spread out your reading or you pound out a bunch of these shorter stories at once, they are very exciting and inventive and well worth the read.

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