Fiction Reviews

Mestiza Blood

(2022) V. Castro, Flame Tree Press, £12.95 / Can$21.95 / US$16.95, pbk, 197pp, ISBN 978-1-787-58616-1


A short story collection of nightmares, dreams, desire and visions centred around the Chicana experience. An intimate anthology of modern horrors. This weaves urban legend, folklore, life experience and heartache in this personal journey beginning in south Texas: a bar where a devil dances the night away; a street fight in a neighbourhood that may not have been a fight after all; a vengeful chola at the beginning of the apocalypse; mind swapping in the not so far future; Satan who falls and finds herself in a brothel in Amsterdam; the keys to Mictlan given to a woman after she dies during a pandemic…. And more.

I’d never read anything by Violet Castro before, but I’ll certainly be reading more of her on the strength of Mestiza Blood, a short story collection drawing on her heritage as a Mexican American. Having said that it is a mixed bag, in terms of length and style, and there are several stories here which could certainly be longer, almost the basis for a novel or two, and perhaps they will be, one day.

Certainly Castro doesn’t flinch away from the gore, or the seΧual nature in some of her stories, which are very modern in their setting whether it is in “Cam Girl Sally”, where a young woman has been disfigured in a shooting and in order to make ends meet, and perhaps fund some future plastic surgery, which might restore her looks but not her missing eye, she resorts to becoming a cam girl, performing seΧual acts on line. Likewise, there are tales that are post-pandemic where the dead have risen to get their revenge; or people have been experimented on and are now different from the rest of the population.

Other stories have an urban legend feel to them like “Donkey Bridge Lady” concerning a braying figure which haunts a bridge, something our heroine is aware of, but doesn’t really believe in until she has to cross the bridge alone after a drunken night out. One thing that unites them all is the theme of oppression against women, and the woman come from a variety of backgrounds: homeless women, deformed women, women who are seΧ workers or erotic dancers who can take no more and have to make a stand in order to survive.

One story, which stands out for perhaps the wrong reason, is the very different “The Cold Season” where an aging mother is about to have her consciousness transferred into a new-born baby. It is a well-told story and is one of those gathered here which could have easily been a novel, but is slightly at odds with the rest of the collection, because of its science-fictional themes, and lack of gore. There is certainly gore in two of the longest stories – “The Truck Stop” and “The Final Porn Star”, the former about an orphan who hits the road and ends up at a truck stop, but she is running from the past and her bodily differences which have made her a freak, a monster in her own eyes. Then she finds she is not alone, and worse than that, her kind is being hunted. While in the latter story, an old-time porn star, hitting middle-age with a daughter decides to make one old school porn film and a documentary about it at the same time, but it’s a big mistake deciding to shoot it in the middle of nowhere. “The Final Porn Star” could easily be the basis of a film showing on a streaming service near you.

All in all, Castro serves up 14 short stories drawing on the Mexican experience, full of Mexican lore and monsters and curses and creatures, delivered in her own unique style and voice, which is one to look out for.

Ian Hunter


[Up: Fiction Reviews Index | SF Author: Website Links | Home Page: Concatenation]

[One Page Futures Short Stories | Recent Site Additions | Most Recent Seasonal Science Fiction News]

[Updated: 22.4.20 | Contact | Copyright | Privacy]