Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories (and sometimes Novellas) are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. Today, I review Sparg by Brian Trent, narrated by Alasdair Stuart.
Fiction Friday: Sparg
I’ve reviewed works from Cast of Wonders in the past, but this time, I decided to try out their other venues as well. Today, we’re looking at yet another reprint story. This one is Sparg, from Escape Pod, originally in Daily Science Fiction, by Brian Trent, narrated by Alasdair Stuart. You can find it here. It’s an adorable, yet heartbreaking tale about a pet cephalopod creature being cared for, and I use that term loosely, by a family dealing with an invasion. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this story is about a squid creature making pancakes, but it gets dark in a hurry.
So, let’s begin.
The story revolves around an unnamed family and the antics of a cephalopod creature, named Sparg, trying to cook food for himself. His owners are not particularly caring, except for the child, but he finds that the humans give it company. Before long, an invasion breaks out and the family is forced to flee, leaving the creature behind to fend for itself.
When I listened to this, I figured it would be a heartwarming tale, but it pulls a 180 in a cruel way, making this a story worth remembering. It’s not every day I see stories like this that can go so dark so fast. Granted, no one’s dying (at least any that I’m aware of) but it shows that a writer doesn’t have to use foul language and blood to make something so insidious and evil. A lot of people give children’s movies flak for being comedic and cutesy, but you’d be amazed how dark many of them can get.
It’s about a cephalopod creature enjoying a family but has to be abandoned due to a war. Though this revelation is a bit jarring since the opening is so lighthearted, that it almost works in a way. Sparg is such an innocent creature, almost like a dog, that what this family did to him was borderline cruel, but it was really the father. The kid begged to take Sparg with them, but it wasn’t like the father was cruel, just had to do what was necessary for survival.
As far as the plot itself goes, it’s short. Of course, it did appear on a flash fiction site, but I felt it was the right amount. A perfect sense of story and pacing that’s rare to see done well. I was honestly impressed that the author crammed so much into so few words. I’ve attempted flash fiction before, but perhaps I could give it a go again after seeing this.
Sparg is adorable. Seeing this thing try to cook was funny to listen to. The host at the end was right in that I’d love to have Sparg in real life. I find it amusing seeing unusual creatures as pets, especially alien creatures. When he’s abandoned, you get a sense of guilt and anger after seeing the humans abandon him in a time of war. The ending was a tearjerker that borders on cruel. It doesn’t necessarily get better for him, and we don’t know if it ever will.
This came out in 2013, so I have no idea if the author did anything else, but I really want to know what happened to Sparg, if he survived. That’s the only thing I ask out of this story, but I understand if the author wants to leave it up to us to decide.
The writing is very emotional and engaging. While not amazing, it captures the mood and atmosphere that I expect from this kind of story. The emotion is in full force and you get a sense of urgency in the climax part of the story. Again, seeing Sparg’s happy life go down in flames (almost literally) is a cruel, yet perfect point to the story that makes it so memorable. This is only the second short story I’ve reviewed that had alien squids (the other being Hollywood Squid from F&SF, which you can find here), and while I do think the story of Hollywood Squid is more innocent, this one is a different kind that makes you feel for a creature I didn’t think I’d love.
The narration is great and feels like a kids book being narrated. It adds to that innocent feel to the story. I thought the emotion towards the end was fantastic and it captured the story perfectly.
So that’s the story. It’s heartbreaking, yet emotional and definitely deserves a listen, even if it’s already been published in the past. Sometimes, I’ll do reprints, but I do try to feature more recent stories. Again, if you have any requests, I’d love to hear them. I’m always looking for more.
So have you read this story, either in DSF or Escape Pod (or any of the Escape Artists Podcasts)? What did you think? Do you want a pet Sparg for yourself? Let me know in the comments below.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
Got any suggestions for future topics and reviews? Hit me up on my social media channels and let me know your thoughts. I always read the feedback, even if I don’t respond, and every reply counts.