The Garden in Bloom, by Jeffrey Turner

the-garden-in-bloom-by-jeffrey-turner coverGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Yard Dog Press
Published: 2002
Reviewer Rating: three stars
Book Review by Lynn Nicole Louis

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The Garden in Bloom is a novella formed of three short stories; “The Halls of the Gods”, “Blossom Season”, and “The Garden in Bloom”. The stories are about a tribe of Vegepods, sentient, human-like creatures evolved from vegetable matter as opposed to flesh and blood. Infant Vegepods are ‘grown’ in a garden, nurtured by the special light of the moon and watched over by the tribe’s Guardians.

In “The Halls of the Gods”, the field of infant Vegepods is being attacked by Wirdigals, were-wolf like creatures that threaten the survival of the tribe. Firgas is a Guardian, and when he and the other Guardians are unable to stop the Wirdigals, he seeks help from the Gods — the legendary beings that live in the nearby mountains. Firgas learns much during his journey and is offered a solution to his problem, proved he is able to use it.

The second story, “Blossom Season”, tells Thorl’s tale. Thorl is the child of Firgas and also a Guardian. He’s treated with ill-disguised contempt however, since the rest of the tribe no longer sees a need for him and because of his low mental abilities. He’s watching over a new batch of developing Vegepods and forms a unique bond with one of them. Thorl’s great size and strength might not be as useless as the tribe thinks, however, when an old enemy returns.

The last story is about Runt, the child of Thorl. He is the opposite of his father — small and physically weak, yet possessed of a keen intellect. When the moon mysteriously vanishes, no longer pouring down its nourishing rays on the blossom field of infant Vegepods, Runt must undertake the same journey as his grandfather: a trip to the home of the Gods to beseech their aid.

I found these stories enjoyable and inventive. Mr. Turner has done an admirable job creating a unique setting, but I think his set-up and world deserves a more in-depth examination than he gives it. My criticism might be unfair, since these stories are told from the Vegepod’s point of view and the part I felt was thinnest was the background that dealt with the ‘gods’, since everything that happens to the Vegepods, good and bad, is a result of some action taken by them.

The author makes a big deal about the Vegepod’s reluctance to violence. Evidently this attribute has a far-reaching impact, yet we aren’t privy to that. Plans are enacted and great amounts of time, energy and material invested, only to all be abandoned in the end. As an example, the Wirdigals, like the Vegepods, owe their existence to the ‘gods’. Yet why did the gods introduce them and the threat they represent? And then turn around and provide a means to undo it? Rivalries and manufactured variables are hinted at, important events and findings, but aren’t explored . Too bad, because judging by faint hints we do get, it looks pretty good. At the end I have to admit, I was more interested in the ‘gods’ than in their creations.

I feel a need to mention the format. The Garden in Bloom is a chapbook put out by Yard Dog Press. It evoked in me a dichotomy of reaction. First, I’m glad there are outfits like Yard Dog Press around, taking chances with newer, less developed writers. On the back side, $6, IMO, is a bit steep for a folded, saddle-stapled chapbook consisting of about 25,000 words of story by an author who doesn’t have (at least to me) any recognition or reputation. For a buck or two more, I can get a 100,000+ word novel by a Name Brand author I know I will enjoy.

Is The Garden in Bloom pro-level story-telling? No. But it’s easy, pleasant reading built around an original slant on a well-recognized premise. You should buy it–you’ll enjoy it and you’ll be supporting a promising talent. Mr. Turner’s imagination and skills are fertile fields that will no doubt sprout even more polished and enjoyable tales in the future.

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