Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Crawling Between Heaven and Earth
Sarah A. Hoyt
Dark Regions Press, 169 pages

Crawling Between Heaven and Earth
Sarah A. Hoyt
Sarah Hoyt was born in Porto, Portugal. She now lives in Colorado with her husband, two sons, and four cats. She holds an M.A. in English and Literature and has pursued Shakespearean studies as a hobby for over twenty-five years. Her short stories have appeared in various magazines, among them Weird Tales and Absolute Magnitude.

Sarah A. Hoyt Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review:All Night Awake
SF Site Review: Ill Met By Moonlight

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Matthew Peckham

Cribbing it's title from one of Hamlet's well-remembered rants, Sarah Hoyt's debut collection is a collage of speculations and fables that invokes the brooding relationship between passion and reason, the beastly and the divine. Crawling Between Heaven and Earth collects eleven brief stories -- seven previously published and four new exclusives -- that document the early progress of a writer still working out some stylistic kinks and wrinkles.

Hoyt is an idea barker, someone whose conventional stories often turn on a surprise ending or follow a clever equation. From vampires to sexually empathic aliens, Shakespeare's in-laws to Elvis, Hoyt dishes up her own blend of page-turners and mellow ruminations on subjects ranging from ancient Rome and the American Civil War to orientalism. You certainly can't fault her for sporting a narrow range of interests, and most of the material -- especially her Shakespearean tales -- is loaded with period detail and thoughtful characterizations that make the occasional clashes between style and substance all the more egregious.

Hoyt's characters are caught in that metaphorical limbo-land between heaven and earth, and so, ironically, are the stories, careening from mostly polished to occasionally jolting with overwrought phrases that refuse to sit still, such as this description of a soldier's head wound in the time traveling war story "Like Dreams of Waking."

At least here there was plenty of room around this man for me to get close to him. Close enough to realize that what moved amid the gore and blood on his face was no human muscle but a mass of maggots that writhed and danced like children at a feast, all the while making a sound like hogs feeding on mash.
"Elvis Died for Your Sins" is a snappy contemporary piece that pokes a little speculative fun at the enduring, overbearing mythology of the corpulent Rhinestoned One, but suffers from jarring ticks, like "in a way that reminded me of someone, but I could never make out whom." "Ariadne's Skein," inspired by Borges' poem "Cyclical Night," reprises the minotaur myth in a future world where artificially created human "artifacts" vie for social respect with natural born "nats." The single vampire story, "Thirst," reads too much like a tribute to Anne Rice, with its eroticized males and vivid sentimentalism in passages like "I will forever remember those afternoons as the best of my childhood: the sun-dappled, bloodstained sand, the certainty that life and death were shows played for my entertainment."

The two strongest pieces in the collection are the Analog story "Trafalgar Square" and one originally published in Weird Tales entitled "Songs." "Trafalgar Square" supposes the Mongols successfully rampaged west, not east, resulting in a socio-economic flip-flop -- western society swings socialist and China (you guessed it) becomes the imperialist-capitalist global superpower. It's a clever way to approach a punch-drunk subject and morph cultural notions of the Other, and Hoyt pulls it off adroitly, right down to a predictable ending that works.

"Songs" is a melancholy ghost story, perhaps the most intriguing piece in the collection -- a beautiful winsome tale of abandoned love complete with shocker ending that proceeds to one-up itself before settling to poignant finale. Aside from the occasional sentimental eruption, this sort of piece is where Hoyt seems most comfortable with her evenly paced voice, and the least interested in conveying straightforward actions or emotions in archaic ways.

It would be intriguing to see some of these stories spend time back in the shed, a little slice here, a bit of shaving there, a few lower impact adjectives and overcooked sentences. Hoyt's strengths include an ability to plot and deliver, and ideas like aliens that stalk and spawn off psychic energy (repeating the cycle, keyed to a specific female, generation after generation) reveal a talent for conjuring the exceptionally unusual that could lend itself to more developed work down the road. It will certainly be interesting to see what she produces in the years ahead.

Copyright © 2003 Matthew Peckham

Matthew Peckham is the pen name of Matthew Peckham. He holds a Master's Degree in English Creative Writing and is currently employed by a railroad.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide