This seventeen-story and -poem anthology is a sampler of various genres, from light-hearted slice-of-life joy to nightmarish journeys. The theme that links them together (for the most part) is a black-and-white morality -- most of these tales or, in some cases, would-be tales, are about punishing those who transgress or rewarding those who do not. If black-and-white morality puts you off, you might want to skip this collection.
For those who appreciate mixed-genre morality works, there is a lot in Brief to entertain you: concise writing, well-developed characters, (mostly) relatable situations and overall good writing.
Some of the works in Brief feel like warm-up exercises to better, more fully-realized stories or poems. With re-writing, time and a different pair of editorial eyes, these pieces could easily become publishable works, butterflies to their Brief-current cocoons.
The pieces that work are polished and microfiction-excellent. Short fiction can be a hard art to master, and Riley is close to doing so. Brief is a worthwhile purchase, not only for the pieces that work, but for the author's willingness to risk experimentation with the aforementioned warm-up exercises and occasional harsh characters.
Riley is a promising, on-the-cusp-of-greatness talent worth reading and supporting, with your time and your cash, if you can appreciate a firm ever-present morality and mostly-effective brevity.
1.) "Brown Shoe": The physical journey of a shoe takes on more personal significance for a woman observing it.
2.) "Ageless": A woman in a store learns another lesson from her mother, now an old woman.
3.) "Vanquished": Vivid tale about an abusive father(Jack), his wife (Sophie) and his son (Jamie), whose lives are wildly altered by the events of one night.
4.) "Night Changes": Avery, a teen rebelling against her mother's rules, has an unexpected encounter while sneaking out.
5.) "Mother's Recluse": A woman takes care of her dead mother's cats.
6.) "Rouge": A terrible dog's arrival in a woman's life kicks off a series of significant life changes for her.
7.) "#17": Twilight Zone-esque tale about a woman on a beach.
8.) "Images": A meeting in a sleazy bar leads to unexpected developments. Fast-moving, entertaining stuff.
9.) "Details": This television-themed vignette is light in tone, a promising start for a full-fledged story.
10.) "Face in the Wall": Good use of symbolism in this fairy tale-esque, nightmare-toned tale about a grandmother and her grandchildren.
11.) "Sam's Stories": Fond, nostalgic story about an old horse trainer who humbles his critics with his independent attitude and actions.