In this new collection of short stories, White Flames by Cecilia Tan brings various different realms to life all while showing the ranging possibilities that occur in the human erotic imagination. There are 21 stories within 6 different categories – Flares, Modern Love, Mythic, Disconnect, Queer as Folk, and Technophile. So there’s a little bit of everything for everyone.
The Flares section is a really quick read and not bad. The two stories in this category are not as erotic as I was expecting and they are more the retelling of a memory than a real story. Both of them work and it really doesn’t go too far into the erotica so anyone should be able to enjoy it.
The stories in the Modern Love section all occur in very urban settings. I wasn’t really crazy about this selection, but they weren’t bad either. The stories just weren’t really all that memorable and the last one was kind of hard to get through. This time around, each story seemed to occur around a single instance in the present rather than being told through memories. However, there was some decent character development for a short story.
In the Mythic section, we’re given stories with a more fanciful feel. The first one was a tragic, erotic version of The Little Mermaid and it worked. However, I can’t really say the same for the rest of the stories in this section. There was nothing really wrong with them, they just didn’t grab my attention. Although, the last story, Sleeping Beauty, was interesting.
The next collection of stories all share the idea of Disconnect. The common theme seems to be that first meeting where sex is the only thing that occurs. One night stands were the name of the game and some of them were good, but nothing really memorable.
Queer as Folks brings us two stories that kind of confuse me. From the section name, I was expecting stories based on same-sex couples, but that’s not what I got. The first story, I have no clue whether the narrator was male or female. I don’t know if I wasn’t paying attention or if that was the point. As for the other story, it’s obvious that the narrator is a lesbian, but she’s looking to learn how to do blowjobs. Other than that, the stories weren’t bad.
The final section is called Technofile, which has a tag line of What’s not sexy about robots and space ships? It’s kind of weird, but the tagline rings pretty close to true. The first story is about sex with a robot. Kind of strange, but new if you think about it. The other two stories were more based in space than dealing with an kind of AI. The cultures were interesting and the stories were good.
Overall, this collection called White Flames isn’t all that bad, but I will say that it didn’t grab my attention or keep me interested for long. Since it is a bunch of stories, it was nice that I could read a few in-between other novels to kind of clear up my mind and then go to something else. That’s the biggest feeling I’m leaving with about this novel. It’s not something you can read straight through, but more like smelling coffee while in a perfume shop. In small doses, it’s enough to entertain for the moment.