In J. Dianne Dotson’s mesmerizing first collection, THE SHADOW GALAXY boasts short stories and poetry spanning magical realism, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and Appalachian tales. With stories and poetry spanning three decades of work, the author taps into journeys both fantastical and deeply personal. Categories include Shadow Shores: Tales from the Sea; Other Futures: Tales of the Galaxy and a Place Called Earth; Into the Darkest Hollow: Tales of Horror; Love and Other Moments: Traces of the Heart; Far Appalachia: Tales from the Ancient Mountains; and Resonant Thoughts: Some Poetry.
The Shadow Galaxy isn’t so much a collection of short stories — it’s more like a cluster of stars, shining brilliantly, and these constellations are every bit as magical and magnificent as you’d hope for.
J. Dianne Dotson cut her literary teeth on a sprawling four-book space-opera series — The Questrison Saga. Now, she’s releasing a book of short stories that span romance, horror, sci-fi, and even some poetry. Yet, her transition from novels to shorts seems absolutely effortless.
The stories in The Shadow Galaxy reminded me of a highlight-reel. They’re all strong entries. There are classic sensibilities about the writing which give it a universal appeal. Each scene contains an underlying substance which is truly magnetic. It commands your attention. Some stories unfold in surprising ways, and some end exactly as you want them to, while others conclude with a sudden twist to leave your heart in your mouth. I’d happily read sequels to many of these tales, but there’s something really lovely about the way that the next scene in the drama is left open for the reader, tempting you to imagine what might occur beyond the page. It takes a real skill to pull that off with so few words.
Variety is not a problem here. Stories range from a robot romance to killer plant-monsters. I particularly enjoyed the Appalachian tales towards the end of the book. There’s a folklore-ish quality about them, and a sense of home and belonging that gave me a feeling of comfort.
But this collection isn’t a random hodge-podge of scenes slapped together in no particular order. Rather, the stories are tied together into a cohesive whole by how personal they feel. They go so much deeper than just the exploration of a cool concept, clever plot, or a gang of lovable characters. I felt a sense of connection to these stories, as if they’d been imbued with life. It was like they’d been carved out of the soul of an author who didn’t just write the words, but lived and breathed them onto the page. The profound sense of how personal these stories are really hit me. I could tell they mattered. They were important. And that sense of importance carried across the whole book. The evident love that’s gone into these tales reached inside of me, and pulled me into this galaxy, heart-first.
The Shadow Galaxy is a crowd-pleasing collection from an author who really knows her craft. But it’s more than that. It’s a beautiful reminder of the light we hold within us. J. Dianne Dotson has shared her light. She’s not just created a galaxy of stories, but she’s managed to capture the essence of a life across these pages. And for that, she is an absolute star.
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