Cover Image: Ice for Martians

Ice for Martians

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Member Reviews

“Ice for Martians” – Claudia Ulloa Donoso (translated from Spanish by Lily Meyer)

I am so bored. I have no idea what to do with myself. Boredom burrows through me, heading straight for my soul. How can I escape it?

HUGE thanks to all those who chatted about this as part of the #translatedgemsbookclub – loved talking about these stories. And thanks as well to @netgalley and @sundial_house_nyc for my copy in exchange for this review.

This is an extremely short collection, 6 stories across 75 odd pages (though there is also the original Spanish stories included), all taken from previous publications. Like her other collection ‘Little Bird’, the stories deal with characters isolated or out of place in some way. The title of the collection refers to Peruvian ice lollies, but there is often a feeling of something alien in all these tales.

The stories vary from the darkly comic to the simply dark. The title story follows a Peruvian mother’s swing towards a new patriotism, convincing her towards extreme measures to impress her daughter’s Norwegian boyfriend. “The Transfiguration of Melina” follows the sexual awakening of a Catholic teenager, whose prayers are answered by an unexpected package. These moments of levity in the collection are balanced out by the fear of a woman escaping her husband in ‘Alarm’, the teenager looking for cigarettes and connection in “I just want a cigarette”, and the frankly cruel actions of an unhappy husband in the story “Actor”.

The insomnia that plagued the author and led to much of “Little Bird” appears again in the final story, “I closed my eyes”, where the narrator watches unhappily as her partner sleeps while she thinks of escaping. There is a sense in many of the stories that the characters want to escape something, be it mundanity or worse, and I found that while the stories were not perhaps instantly memorable, there was a lot to discuss with a bit of thought.

Interesting collection, and it’s made me want to seek out her novel more and more.

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The stories of these Martian-Human protagonists, who find it impossible to connect with the larger society, are narrated with very minimum embellishments. I loved the unadorned nature in them. Even though I love novels that are obese, I prefer my short stories bareboned and never reluctant to hit where it hurts most. Ice For Martians delivers its verbal thwacks pretty fiercely

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read a free copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion! I have been trying to read more translated works, this novel seemed interesting as a short story collection focusing on alienated people that also had beautiful cover art. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy any of the stories featured in this collection. I'm not sure if it was a translation issue or the author's writing style, but I found the characters to be flat and the stories to be very confusing and boring. The only story that was somewhat compelling had to do with a woman that was trying to escape from her abusive partner, and even then the story ended in a very unhappy manner. From the other reviews of this collection I have seen, many people feel the same way as me.

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I'm quite fond of what you might call 'weirdo fiction'. Narratives about lost people, dislocated or otherwise dissociated from those around them. Maybe I feel as though I relate to them, but for whatever reason, I find stories such as those contained within this volume to speak to me (and many others!) on a deep level.

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