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Red Sails / Edward M. Erdelac

Lyrical Press / April 2010
Reviewed by: I.E. Lester

Red Sails' short length is both its weakest feature and almost its saviour. Fifty-five pages just aren’t enough to really develop any of the various elements of the story — plot, location, backstory, characters, or mythos. As a result, none of these are even close to being fully fleshed out elements.

But to be totally honest, had Red Sails been any longer, you would start to notice the cracks where the plot has been cobbled together from a pick 'n' mix selection of recent blockbuster fantasy movies.

The basic concept of this book concerns an 18th Century British soldier named Janek Puzan (not the most British name this reviewer has ever come across) who has been captured and imprisoned aboard a Spanish Galleon called the La Dona Marisol. When the ship is attacked by pirates, he finds himself at the mercy of the pirate captain, a man who sees him as a perfect bit of sport for his men.

This Most Dangerous Game-style concept would seem a pretty reasonable – albeit recycled – plot for a book as short as this. Problem is that the proceedings instantly get a little more complicated. Pirate Captain Absolon Vigoreaux just happens to be a vampire and his ship crewed entirely by werewolves.

Janek, together with a Spanish priest, Timoteo, are put aground on a remote tropical island where they will serve as prey for the crew's hunt — a regular event the captain sets up to keep the crew's bestial natures satisfied.

On the island they meet up with an exotic primitive (and nearly naked) tribe to add a little titillation to the adrenaline-rush plot. Accompanied by a young woman, Janek and the priest set about defeating an entire pack of werewolves; or, to put it another way, one soldier and two non-fighters take on a pack of demonic bests. Sounds a fair fight.

This overloaded narrative results in a story that just doesn't hold up to much scrutiny. So is there anything at all to recommend in this book? Well, yes.

This is when Red Sails’ brief length becomes its greatest strength. At novella length, the pace moves so quickly you can barely pause for breath — never mind consider the preposterous nature of plot. In addition, Erdelac has a decent writing style. And although the concept here is overblown, he doesn't overdo it with the prose. His style is straightforward and unobtrusive.

He just tells a story without over-egging any aspect of it. The gore is presented in a very minimalist manner, just enough description to convince you of vampirism without overlabouring the point. Similarly, the savagery of the attacking werewolves is handled well. He's balanced detail with the reader's pre-existing knowledge of standard horror monsters, thus wisely allowing the reader to fill in the blanks.

Erdelac's bio gives his background as a filmmaker inspired by Errol Flynn movies. This is very apparent in Red Sails, which would make a far better action-adventure screenplay than a book.

Although Red Sails is not a great book, it does have some redeeming features. It's pure romp, throwaway Boys' Own-style adventure fun.

Purchase Red Sails by Edward M. Erdelac.

Posted on Saturday, July 31, 2010 at 02:46PM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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