Berit Ellingsen's Vessel and Solsvart will be published by Snuggly Books in March 2017.
Information about Berit Ellingsen:
Berit Ellingsen's novel Not Dark Yet was published by Two Dollar Radio in November 2015. She is the author of the short story collections Beneath the Liquid Skin and Vessel & Solsvart, and the novel Une Ville Vide (PublieMonde). Her work has appeared in W.W. Norton’s Flash Fiction International, SmokeLong Quarterly, Unstuck, Litro, Up Here - The North at the Center of the World, and other places, and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the British Science Fiction Award. Berit divides her time between Norway and Svalbard in the Arctic.
Click here to visit her official website.
Information about Vessel and Solsvart:
Throughout history our fear of and desire to control death has raised empires and broken gods. What's dominated the past is sure to follow in the future. Even in the Anthropocene, the global epoch of humankind, the planet is in the throes of a sixth period of mass extinction. Here is a collection of dark fables and modern fairytales, inspired by Scandinavian folk tales and the work of H.C. Andersen, about death, the dead, and our relationship to both, to celebrate the living and remind us that only one thing is certain in life.
A REVIEW OF BERIT ELLINGSEN'S VESSEL AND SOLSVART
Berit Ellingsen's Vessel and Solsvart is a gorgeous feast of dark imagination and literary storytelling. It's one of the finest mini-collections ever published, because the author has created something so beautifully unsettling and mesmerisingly weird that from the very first page you find yourself awed at her stories.
I had heard of Berit Ellingsen prior to reading this collection, but this is the first time that I've had an opportunity to read anything by her. I consider her to be one of the rising stars of literary speculative fiction, because she's a talented author who has a strong and beautiful voice of her own.
Vessel and Solsvart will be of interest to readers who have read literary fiction, but it will be of special interest to those who love literary strange fiction and literary speculative fiction. I personally recommend it everyone who enjoys reading beautifully written stories and strange fiction.
Vessel and Solsvart contains the following five stories:
- Vessel and Solsvart
- Among the Living and the Dead
- Blue Star, Singular Fire
- Summer Dusk, Winter Moon
It's been a while since I've read anything like these stories, because they were so beautifully written that they left me wanting more. I read them twice before writing this review, because I found myself wholly captivated by them and their atmosphere.
Each of these stories is a small masterpiece of literary speculative fiction. They're different from each other, but are united by the author's way of writing fascinatingly about matters related to death.
The roots of these stories lie in Scandinavian folk tales, Nordic stories and the work of H.C. Andersen, but they're not folk tales or Andersen-like stories, for they take on an appearance of dark fables and adult fairy tales that are infused with a touch of arctic chilliness and strange fiction elements.
Here are a few words about the stories:
"Vessel and Solsvart" tells of Vessel and Solsvart who wander in a desolate world in search of something that will prevent the sun from coming back. Their wanderings are spellbinding, because they visit many places and see various sights and vistas. This story features haunting imagery and elegant storytelling. (I can honestly say that this story alone is enough reason to buy this collection.)
"Among the Living and the Dead" is a story about a physician who tends to a patient who is not liked by the villagers. The events take place in the eastern part of the Habsburg Empire. I enjoyed this story, because it stimulated my imagination and I wanted to find out what happens at the end.
"Blue Star, Singular Fire" is a fascinating story about explorers, and "Apotheosis" is an intriguing tale about immortality and death. Both of these short stories feature fascinating storytelling.
"Summer Dusk, Winter Moon" is an intriguingly dark and strange story about a being called Summer Dusk, who has been awoken from death. Summer Dusk's transformation to Winter Moon captivated me, because the author wrote fascinatingly about it. This story has a deep feel of literary strangeness, because it feels like an exotic blend of Angela Slatter, H.P. Lovecraft and Joris-Karl Huysmans with a faint touch of Joel Lane.
Although completely different, "Summer Dusk, Winter Moon" reminded me slightly of some of the stories in Angela Slatter's The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, because it had the same kind of feel of myth and wonder. If you've read Angela Slatter's stories, this story will most likely impress you.
I was deeply impressed by Berit Ellingsen's literary prose and her way of creating a sombre and unsettling atmophere, because she does it with ease and leads her readers into a world where bleakness, darkness and death are ever present. Her elegant phrases are filled with meaning and have moments of arresting quiet power. There's a melancholy and inevitably bleak feel to these stories that I found utterly fascinating.
It's great that the author has an eye for small details and is capable of writing thought-provoking stories. She observes life, death and nature in a truly unique and precise way that will be remembered by readers, because in her stories death, decay, hope, transformation and survival are important - and necessary - parts of the whole. Instead of delivering easy answers, she allows her readers to ponder on the stories and their happenings.
Death is seldom explored in such a beautiful and dark way as it is done in this collection. The author combines various elements of bleakness, darkness, forlornness, melancholia and wistfulness in a stunningly potent way. When you begin to read this collection, you'll be seduced by these elements.
I sincerely hope that Berit Ellingsen will be discovered by speculative fiction readers, because she's a gifted author who has her own unique voice that shines with dark power (she is an author to watch and her stories deserve to be read). Because I enjoyed this collection, I intend to read her novel Not Dark Yet and her short story collection Beneath the Liquid Skin as soon as possible.
Berit Ellingsen's Vessel and Solsvart is a riveting combination of bleakness, darkness, elegance and weirdness. This mini-collection should not be missed by readers of literary speculative fiction, because it's one of the best and most impressive collections of its kind. It's something unique and deeply compelling.