Urban Gothic: The Art of Shorter Fantasy is Still Alive!
Not my favorite title, and I don’t see the connection to the story, but that doesn’t exactly matter, because the story contained inside is fantastical and wonderful and poignant. It cuts to the soul, for its themes slice through the psychological and the broken and the wounded.
Suppose everyone had a doppelganger. Suppose the world itself had a doppelganger. What would such an alternative dreamscape, complete with imagined and unimagined people, be like? How would its psychological connection, through our dreams, affect our world?
Urban Gothic sets out to explore that world, a world of strange forests, heroic warriors, strange doppelgangers, and fundamentally, a world that lives and dies on love.
Alec, the main character, is a broken human searching for meaning. When he’s thrust into a dreamscape, he must recognize his own broken past and move past it to realize what he must do to not only save himself, but his new (and a few old) friends.
Sounds like a fantasy epic, right?
Stephen Coghlan tells this story in very few words, but every word matters. Every word leads toward the inexorable conclusion. While half of the conclusion I could predict after about forty or so pages, the very end threw me off, yet made me enjoy the story even more.
Well done, Stephen, and its time for the scores.
Writing: 5.5/10. This will be the only low score. While I enjoyed the writing, unfortunately for such a short piece there were more than just a few typos throughout. I didn’t discuss this flaw above because I don’t think it should detract from people engaging with Urban Gothic, but it is worth mentioning as part of our metrics. I’m also pretty sure I found a use of the word “guiltily” as an adverb to describe how someone said something, which I did not enjoy.
Characters: 9.5/10. In such a short narrative, Coghlan presents a multitude of characters, each with their own backstories and motivations. While Alec is the center point, the other characters feel alive, as if they’re living their own tale, too.
Plot: 9.5/10. Urban Gothic only loses half a point here because I managed to predict one half of the ending! Otherwise, well done. The themes connect with the conflict moving the characters forward, and the exploration of PTSD, drug addiction, and brokenness through dreams is a wonderful break from most fantasy.
Setting: 9/10. You can’t really get much better than a dreamscape complete with strange trees, doppelgangers, and a forest that allows you to go wherever you please. (Very indicative of Narnia, by the way). In some ways, I envisioned an Inception-like world, but infinitely more fantastical than that.
Overall: 8.375/10. So close to the potential rounding up to 5 stars! Clean up the typos and you’re on your way to five stars from the Two Doctors Review! Great job, Stephen.