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Book Review: Yeti. Tiger. Dragon. by Daniel Braum

“This is the kind of well-crafted character-driven storytelling that is serving, and will continue to serve, Daniel Braum well as he continues to make a name for himself in the genre.”

Tiger. Yeti. Dragon. by Daniel Braum - coverDaniel Braum’s short stories run the full spectrum of speculative fiction, from horror to science-fiction to fantasy and blends of two or more of these. But he prefers “fiction”, as he feels that best describes the kind of stories he wants to tell; stories where anything can happen. His first collection, The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales, was released in May 2016 by Cemetery Dance Publications (ebook) and Grey Matter Press (paperback), displaying the high regard Braum is afforded by such industry heavyweights. Here we take a look at his limited edition three-story collection Yeti. Tiger. Dragon. from another prestigious publisher, Dim Shores.

The opening story, ‘The Yeti’s Hand’, takes place in the snow-covered mountains of Nepal in 1975 and concerns the clandestine mission of protagonist Miami, a female adventurer, and her partner in the endeavour, Huang. They have been tasked with brokering a deal with the inhabitants of a remote monastery, trading one artefact they “liberated” from China for another, a genuine dismembered Yeti’s hand. The catalyst for this deal is the secretive J. Sun, a shady businessman who Miami has worked for before. Disappointing this man is not an option. But the monks are reluctant to share the secrets of the Yeti with westerners, thus introducing us to the conflict. Braum expertly blends setting and story to deliver a complete narrative that transports the reader to the starlit, dizzying altitude of the Himalayan mountaintops. We see the world through the eyes of the tough Miami as she encounters situations and creatures she never thought possible and finally comes to realise that there are worse, and more familiar, evils than the monsters she seeks.

‘Hunting the Tasmanian Tiger’ also features Miami as the protagonist, although the time period is unclear and we do not know if the events take place before or after ‘The Yeti’s Hand’. In this case, Braum transports the action to the island of Tasmania, as we follow Miami on a solo mission to skin a supposedly extinct Tasmanian Tiger and deliver the skin to her mysterious employer. Whether it is the same employer as the first story is unclear, but Miami is certainly undaunted by such missions, searching for these cryptids. This story takes a turn for the weird when Miami spots a couple of familiar faces from her past at the resort where she is staying, Rosa offering a warning about the hunt for the tiger. The true nature of the tiger is revealed towards the end of the story and Miami must decide whether to follow her instinct or spare a life. Braum manages to bring depth to his characters even in such a strange situation, causing the reader to question what they themselves would do.

Whereas the first two stories have been published elsewhere, ‘The Water Dragon’ is an original story for this collection. During a family holiday to Aruba, Melanie’s generosity towards a scrawny young girl who packs her bags in a market bears unexpected results. The girl gives Melanie a present in the form of an egg along with the warning that it shall hatch soon and it needs a mommy. Melanie, finding herself drawn to the strange and colourful item, cannot resist and brings it back to the hotel where she is staying with her husband and two kids. With this story, Braum uses the contents of the egg as a discovery device, giving us a glimpse into Melanie’s melancholy as she is faced with the awesome power of the water dragon, and the opportunity to rid herself of a source of unhappiness. But at what cost?

It is clear to see from these three stories that Daniel Braum is a talented writer who is bursting with potential. He has taken three seemingly straightforward tales and given each a weird twist, and not just by using three very unique creatures. His sense of adventure and wonder about the world are evident by his use of exotic locations which are wildly different than the typical settings in fiction. He places his characters in strange situations and weaves a great story through excellent use of character development. Each of the protagonists face a horror that is a little too close to home; whether it be Miami in ‘The Yeti’s Hand’ who must decide if the prize is worth the sacrifice, or Miami in ‘Hunting the Tasmanian Tiger’ who must weigh the worth of a life (or potentially, dozens of lives) against the lucrative reward offered by her employer, or Melanie in ‘The Water Dragon’, who feels a distance from her husband and is given the ability to make the problem disappear. They each must confront their horror and overcome it, or embrace it. This is the kind of well-crafted character-driven storytelling that is serving, and will continue to serve, Daniel Braum well as he continues to make a name for himself in the genre. And we can’t wait to see what he produces next.

THOMAS JOYCE

Publisher: Dim Shores
Paperback: (100 pp)
Release Date: 9 October 2016

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