translated by James Womack
March 1, 2017
It’s not often that you’ll find four entirely different worlds inhabiting a single, slender book. But that’s exactly what’s going on in Moon Scars, a collection of stories by the award-winning Spanish author Ángel Luis Sucasas. Werewolves, technologically-sophisticated toys, magical underwater worlds, and vanishing people that reappear as monsters: when brought together in one book, they excite the imagination and encourage readers to envision further plot twists and events that Sucasas just hints at.
“A Tale of the White Lady,” a story about werewolves (and also the longest story in the book) invites us to see the world through the eyes of these changelings as they function within their own communities and venture out into human cities to capture “prey.” But when Ivetta insists upon bringing a human baby into her pack to raise as a werewolf, the consequences for the pack are lethal. Sucasas has written a story about alienation and assimilation that works on two levels: first, it asks us to consider how the human raised as a werewolf should behave once he finds out the truth about his origins; and second, the story itself is the (human) reader’s experience being submerged in this werewolf world, where the thoughts and emotions of these creatures are vital to our understanding of subsequent events.
In “The Offering,” “The Day I Refused an Empire,” and “Farewell,” we meet a bewitching elf and a living, divine statue; a wizard who can create miniature, living people; a race of silver beings existing in parallel with our own; an Architect that has upended childhood and adulthood and created monsters; and many other people and creatures that challenge our assumptions about the fabric of reality and our understanding of physics. Each story, while wildly different from the others in subject, hovers tantalizingly between fantasy and science fiction. Sucasas’s style is playful and whimsical, but also unflinching and direct. Revenge, love, fear, despair: the characters in these stories experience these emotions intensely, and the reader isn’t spared, either.
Let me give you an example of Sucasas’s fluid, enchanting prose, expertly translated into English by James Womack. Here, a character approaches an underwater city:
It spread out from a centre, adapting itself to the spherical shape of its protected bubble. It was beautiful, baroque yet already decrepit, covered in polyps, corals and anemones, the guardians of oblivion which occupy the role under the waves of ivy, mould and spiderwebs above them. But this abandonment in some way only increased its beauty. It made it unreal and solemn, like something out of a dream. (“The Day I Refused an Empire,” 115)
Moon Scars is an intriguing, dazzling gem, and a fantastic addition to the world of Spanish speculative fiction in translation.