Disclaimers: I know the author. Not only are we are both writers in the same community, we attempt to meet weekly to write together, though on separate projects. I did use a code she provided to get Blue Tent at no cost, and have given her copies of my work in hopes of an honest critique. Herrera’s work is my first real exposure to short fiction since my college days, so there may be expectations I have comparing her work to novels than are not fair or even appropriate. Now on with the review:
Blue Tent is a dystopian short fiction piece that illustrates some of the problems created when trusting a government bought, owned, and controlled by corporations.BT showcases a growing disparity between upper class and lower class; the middle class is almost invisible. The poor live in tent cities, but even these are being threatened by the government, as is living off the land. In today’s US government situation with Monsanto and other corporate interference, people can see the real-life examples that presumably inspired Herrera’s storyline.
Tele is a character in hiding; she has criticized the government and fears danger for her family if she did not leave them behind. Good with technology and scavenging, she has spent two years on the streets when we are introduced to her. I wanted something more to happen with the technology she’d scavenged, especially a cattle-prod-type device she uses to defend herself from unwanted advances. We see one instance where she uses it to advantage and another where she threatens, but both are very short and I would have liked to see more. I thought maybe the story could have been stronger if it were used against her by her captors. Put simply, I wanted to see it and the other devices I expected her to create having some bigger impact on the story.
We understand that she travels to various tent cities frequently, not wanting to draw attention to herself. In BT, she does find companions and they once again consider organizing against the all-powerful government. This leads to her betrayal by another tent dweller.
I found the last scene jarring, because up to then, I saw everything from Tele’s POV, and the last scene is written from the point of view of one who betrays her. If I could, I’d have re-written the last scene from Tele’s POV–a mix of scenes about seeing her daughter, thinking about her daughter’s growth in a free society perhaps (like Bruce Willis’ character in the movie Armageddon) and maybe even hearing that she had a visitor (who, of course, would be her remorseful betrayer). Perhaps this jarring shift is meant by the author, to add to the total betrayal of Tele by one she thought she could trust. But after reading the rest of BT from her point of view, I was more jarred out of my suspension of disbelief than absorbed by the message.
The message, by the way, is somewhat preaching to the choir. Activists or would-be activists will not be bothered by this, but those who don’t care for dystopian commentary may want to skip BT.
Except for the jarring scene at the end, I had no difficulty with the vision that Herrera presented. Details were abundant and well placed, especially for such a short work, and really helped set the scene. There were a few descriptions of men where it was hard to tell which character was which, but this could have been a reflection of Tele’s attempt to distance herself from the group – one homeless old man may look much like another, and if everyone is suspected of potential betrayal, one may not be distinguishable from another.
I find myself reading (and creating) a lot in the dystopian genre, and feel Herrera’s work fits well within that collective body. After reading BT and Tesla’s Secret (also by Herrera), I know I want more.