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I’ve always been landlocked, never living in a place near
the ocean. During a vacation to St. Maarten, however, I fell in love with the
sea—its mysteries, its vastness, its beauty and legends—and will contrive to
retire there by hook or crook. And reading this anthology only reinforced that
The eleven stories that comprise The Touch of the Sea
take full advantage of not only locations but the ocean’s mysterious elements
as well. Sea creatures abound, interacting with both humans and themselves,
present and the past. A wonderful example of this is the leadoff story, ‘Nathan
Burgoine’s excellent “Time and Tide,” a beautifully crafted tale of re-kindled
love between the descendent of a river god and his old boyfriend, a naiad.
Burgoine has a gift for bittersweet romance, and this is a lovely illustration.
Matthew A. Merendo’s “The Calm Tonight” is a perfect
follow-up, depicting the relationship between a merman who comes ashore to find
a mate and the man he falls in love with. He knows women can be taken beneath
the sea to mate, but doesn’t even know if it’s possible for two men.
Fulfillment or loss? Choices must be made. Jonathan Harper’s “The Bloated
Woman” provides an interesting change-up as a woman’s drowned body becomes an
intriguing metaphor for a relationship between a writer and his married
One of my favorite writers, Jeff Mann, turns in a fine
performance with “The Stone of Sacrifice,” a deeply engaging tale about writer
Ewan McDonald, researching a book in the Outer Hebrides as he falls in love
with a mysterious man sacrified to the sea gods in an ancient ritual. Mann’s
gifts are in rare form here.
Damon Shaw and Joel Lane rock a pair of very poetic stories
in “Air Tears” and “The Grief of Seagulls,” respectively, but no one does
poetic fantasy better than Alex Jeffers, who hits one out of the park with
“Ban’s Dream of the Sea,” a lyrical yet accessible story about an ancient city
and a lover beneath the sea. Jeffers’ writing in so sharp and sensual you can
almost smell the brine.
The only possible way to follow Jeffers is to go the
opposite direction, and Brandon Cracraft’s hilariously pointed monster movie
mashup “Night of the Sea Beast” is more than up to the task. Think Ed Wood
directing Creature of the Black Lagoon and you’re almost there. Vincent
Kovar takes us to what seems to be a post-apocalyptic world populated by
thuggish quasi-pirate boys in “Wave Boys” and John Howard speaks for all who
seek a different way of life in “Out to Sea.” It’s Chaz Brenchley who has the
last word, however, with a story of pirates and living islands in “Keep the
The Touch of the Sea is a perfect anthology—not a dud
here—full of the mystery and vastness that only the ocean can conjure. May we
have a sequel, Mr. Berman?
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler