Posts Tagged ‘Parallel Universe Publications’

Length: 100 Pages

Publisher: Parallel Universe Publications

Release Date: November 12, 2017

The Crabian Heart follows 13-year-old Aleš and his mother Irena, who are on their own after Ales’ father was locked up in prison shortly after arriving in Dover, England after fleeing the Czech Republic. They are staying at The East Cliff Hotel temporarily while they wait for a decision on their asylum application. There they run into Zsofia, who is the owner of the hotel. She tells them that everything is taken care of for the duration of their application process and they receive a small weekly allowance for necessities. Zsofia tries to calm their fears about the father by telling him that they always detain the men of any families who come over.

Almost right away Irena doesn’t trust Zsofia, a character whose motivations remain murky for most of the novella. When Aleš tries to disagree because she appeared to be smiling, Irena said her smile was “thinner than a razorblade. And her eyes. It’s all in the eyes. They never lie, no matter how pleasant you pretend to be.” Aleš isn’t excited about his new home – the hotel lobby reeks of mothballs and the room has no VCR – but when he hears the screeching of seagulls, the prospect of living near the sea fills him with excitement.

All he wants to do is to take his mind off of the turmoil surrounding his life, so while his mother is running appointments, he convinces her to allow him to visit the beach by himself. While that seems like a small victory, it is a decision that will alter his life forever. It’s at the beach that he meets a frail girl named Enola, who answers Aleš’ questions with strange observations that hint that she is anything but an ordinary girl. They begin walking together and Ales sees a small, purple crab and Enola gives him the ominous warning to stay away from them because they are not what they seem. After his initial discovery of the strange crabs and an ocean that seems to shift colors at will, Aleš begins seeing weird things all over Dover.

Despite the fact that he thinks Enola is strange initially, it doesn’t take long for him to fall in love with her. He begins to use any excuse he think of to sneak out of his new apartment and spend the day with her. However, as Aleš begins to learn more about the town he is in and his mysterious new friend Enola, he learns that not everything is as it seems and that the new life he is trying to build is in grave danger.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Crabian Heart. There is plenty of horror and fantastical elements throughout, but at its core, The Crabian Heart is a story that almost everyone can relate to. It’s the story of two outsiders dealing with love, heartbreak, and the desire for acceptance. These are topics that touch everyone’s life in one way or another and I think that is what makes this story so engaging. I loved the dynamic that Hofstatter develops between Aleš and Enola. While there is numerous scenes that makes their story compelling, there are two short moments that perfectly capture their relationship. The first is when Aleš and Enola meet for the first time. There is a great line when she asks Aleš if he’s scared of her and he says no, wondering what would prompt her to ask him that question. She says “Because I’m different. People are scared of what they don’t know…or understand.” The other is when Zsofia is telling Aleš the heartbreaking story about her husband’s betrayal. He listens to her story and warnings about love, but tells Zsofia that Enola inspires him not to be afraid of the world and that when you invest your heart and soul into someone it changes you.

However, I did have a minor issue with parts of the story. Hofstatter never mentions why the family has decided to flee their home country and while it doesn’t significantly detract from the story, it feels like the story could have been enhanced if we had a little information on the Aleš’ family. It’s a short piece so I understand not wanting to bog it down with too much back story, but just a paragraph or two at most could have added another layer to this piece. Were they simply just seeking a better financial future? Were they involved in some kind of legal trouble? There is a small mention of their troubles in an exchange between Aleš and his mother where he asks if they will be safe and if “they” will be able to find them, and his mother reassures him by saying everything will be fine. That helps to a degree, but it still feels like something is missing.

Despite my wish for a little more development of the family dynamic, I loved the vibe of The Crabian Heart. It’s a coming-of-age tale mashed-up with some of the best parts of weird fiction. This story isn’t overly scary, in fact it’s more rooted in those feelings of love and the risks that come with it. But while The Crabian Heart may not have a heavy focus on outright scares, there are some pretty vivid and creepy scenes of body horror in the later half of the novella that are extremely well done.

While I thoroughly enjoyed The Crabian Heart, I think I felt more of a connection to the second story contained within called Fountain of Drowned Memories. This story opens with a man named Lorcan studying these amorphous stains that are on the ceiling in a room that he has been trapped in for some time. His thoughts are slowly eroding from his memory as he can’t remember when he first arrived in the room or the changes that happened to his body. The one thing that brings him any sort of relief from his waking nightmare is the fountain in his room. He submerges his head in the waters and it removes all negative thoughts from his mind. He feels he is being tortured in this place, but he doesn’t understand why he has been brought to this place. While the fountain brings him his only sense of relief in this hellish prison, he gets the sense that the fountain is stealing his memories. To make matters worse, he begins having frightening visions that seem to get worse with every passing day.

I don’t want to talk about too much of the plot of this story because it might spoil it for new readers, but I love the way Hofstatter manipulates reality in this story. He is able to keep the reader off-balance by forcing them to decide what is real. This is a heartbreaking story and a perfect complement to The Crabian Heart, creating a one-two punch of what I feel are Hofstatter’s strongest stories to date. This was an engaging collection that whips by at a frantic pace and is easily read in one sitting. Hofstatter has a new book coming out this year from Sinister Grin Press called TOROA and I’m looking forward to reading it and seeing what kind of dark visions he has cooked up.

Rating: 4/5


Erik Hofstatter’s Official Website

Parallel Universe Publications’ Official Website

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About Erik Hofstatter

Erik Hofstatter is a dark fiction writer and a member of the Horror Writers Association. Born in the wild lands of the Czech Republic, he roamed Europe before subsequently settling on English shores, studying creative writing at the London School of Journalism. He now dwells in Kent, where he can be encountered consuming copious amounts of mead and tyrannizing local peasantry. His work appeared in various magazines and podcasts around the world such as Morpheus Tales, Crystal Lake Publishing, The Literary Hatchet, Sanitarium Magazine, Wicked Library, Tales to Terrify and Manor House Show. Other works include The Pariahs, Amaranthine and Other Stories, Katerina, Moribund Tales and Rare Breeds.