Book Review: Corrupted Vessels by Briar Ripley Page

Here’s an excerpt from my review of Corrupted Vessels at Heavy Feather Review:

Briar Ripley Page’s novella, Corrupted Vessels, from swallow::tale press, is unconcerned with the truth. Not in the unreliable narrator sense, where we have reason to doubt the story which is relayed to us—indeed, none of the four narrators are afforded the chance to mislead us any more than they, themselves, are misled or misinformed about their own thoughts and actions—but in which ambiguities flourish at every level: supernatural, romantic, family. Even on the genre level, Corrupted Vessels situates itself in a gray area, taking just enough from horror to unsettle its otherwise literary position.

Corrupted Vessels arrays these ambiguities in a fitting material world: two trans runaways have taken up residence in a decrepit house in the middle of a wooded area in a deep southern town. Ash and River are prophet and follower. The former’s communication with angels allow them to offer River a world organized by different logics than those his parents had for him, a world with a place for him as the incarnation of the element of water. Ash, in turn, incarnates fire, and the two of them are in search of the other two elementals who are destined to join them and birth God into the world. Despite the namelessness of their relationship, the way Ash provides the framework for meaning in River’s life, uses it to guide his behavior, and also provides for River in the form of food and shelter by way of their charisma, is most reminiscent of a parent and child relationship, in which Ash also takes on the job of role model, the person who River looks up to most.

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