In The Palace Of Repose
by Holly Phillips
Review by Steve Sawicki
Prime Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 1894815580
Date: 05 January, 2005 List Price $29.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Holly Phillips has appeared mostly in the small press magazines such as On Spec and HP Lovecraft's Magazine of Horror. In fact, two of the nine stories that make up this single author collection come from those two very same sources. The majority of the work in this volume is fantasy/horror related with a surreal touch. The lead off short story deals with a King who is kept dreaming so that his kingdom remains safe. The story is not told in such a straightforward manner however as Phillips uses short interjections of prose to provide you with visual snapshots which you have to piece together over the course of the work. In the end you're not quite sure of the resolution although the voyage has been an interesting one. This holds true for much of the work here.
I suppose it is safe to say that Phillips is a stylist, choosing the way words work together as much as she chooses the meaning of those words. When reading her work you are treated to language as an enjoyment in and of itself as much as you are to the story that the language is used to convey. This is not for everyone and if you are looking for simple, straightforward material you had best look elsewhere. If, however, you are looking for something more literate, something that will make you wonder and think and turn back to pages to see if you have comprehended things the way you thought, then this is for you.
If fiction were truly written from the character's perspective you would end up with a result much like some of the work in this book. When you are caught in the middle of something all you have is the sensations without any of the insight, the mood without the thought, the feelings without the intellect. Thus it is with this collection. Some would argue that great writing requires thought, that it is not the job of the writer to lay everything out for you but to give you just enough to make you pause to think and to think not lightly but deeply. This is certainly not the kind of writing you take to bed but the kind that you sit by the fireplace with to get ready for your reading group discussion next Tuesday.