Available formats: epub, mobi, pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb, txt
MIKE DURAN is a novelist, blogger, and freelance writer whose short stories, essays, and commentary have appeared in Relief Journal, Relevant Online, Breakpoint, Rue Morgue magazine, and other print and digital outlets. His debut novel, a supernatural thriller entitled “The Resurrection,” is about an unlikely woman who raises a boy from the dead and rouses something beyond her control. Mike contributes monthly commentary at Novel Journey, one of Writer’s Digest 101 Most Helpful Websites for Writers and is represented by Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary. Mike is an ordained minister and lives with his wife and four grown children in Southern California. You can learn more about him, his writing projects, creative interests, and confessions at his website (www.mikeduran.com).
on Dec. 28, 2011 :
Mike's a good writer. I feel like I'm in trusted hands when I read his stuff. Here, he's done it again. Winterland is a thoroughly eerie journey through the mind of a dying woman whom we never actually see in the story - only the effects of her life as seen in physical metaphors. Her daughter is chosen to wander this wilderness and round up the nasties preventing peace.
I found it slightly difficult to get into; I had no real direction, but then neither did Eunice at that point. Perhaps my confusion was only a reflection of hers. After she'd been through a few incidents on her travels, she began to warm to her task and I to her tale as she grew more determined to fulfill.
That is the true strong point here, I think - Eunice really grows as a person, eventually setting aside her not-insignificant fears and gaining relief like she never imagined possible.
Don't be put off by any horror labels you may see floating around in connection with this book. It's only a bit gross in places, a bit creepy, and very supernatural. Horror doesn't really do it justice at all.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on Nov. 21, 2011 :
Winterland, a novella by Mike Duran, is part psychological fantasy, part intrapersonal suspense, and part allegorical thriller. Think Pilgrim meets the Phantom Tollbooth, but in Purgatory. The premise works well enough - and has since Dante took his journey of redemption - but as in many allegory-esque tales, the tension slips now and again due to the inevitable and somewhat predictable outcome. (But hey, we all knew Dorothy would return from Oz, so this doesn't necessarily mean this type of story can't work.)
Duran is a solid writer (his novel, Resurrection, is published by Charisma House) and the opening hook pulls you in fairly quickly. Our heroine, Eunice, on her way to see her dying mother, winds up in a car accident on a SoCal freeway. She slips into a between-worlds darker dimension (Winterland being the opposite of the Faery's cheerful Summerland) where she must reach her mother before it's too late! (See what I mean about the tension level? At this point I started skimming a bit to get to the action that never quite reaches a climax.)
Along the way, Eunice has to travel through the Swamp of Mlaise and face her family's generational demons of license, legalism, perfectionism, and regret. While not a straight up Everyman tale, the symbolism is fairly transparent. But again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just a particular style of storytelling, one that I'm not overly fond of. I'd give it a 6 out of 10, but if you like your morality fables spiced up with a bit of suspense, this novella might be right for you. It's competently self-published and at $2 isn't a bad bargain.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)