Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Case of the Poisoned House and Other Xenopsychiatric Studies (e-anthology) by M.C.A. Hogarth

The Case of the Poisoned House and Other Xenopsychiatric Studies is a collection of eight vignettes featuring cases Jahir and Vasiht'h have worked together as mindlinked xenopsychologists.

Since this is basically an anthology and I rarely list read-alikes for those, I won't be including any read-alikes in this post.


I hate writing reviews for collections of short stories or, in this case, vignettes. I'm never sure how I should tackle them. Oh well, I'll do my best.

Jahir and Vasiht'h have a unique way of working – they can see and affect their clients' dreams. This was a technique Vasiht'h pioneered in Mindtouch, so it was nice to see it fully figured out and in use.

Some of the vignettes were funny, some were quietly reflective, and some were sad. They dealt with a Phoenix client who refused to sleep in their office because they didn't have an appropriate bed. They dealt with a Harat-Shar client who was there mostly because she thought Jahir was good-looking (Vasiht'h referred to events that took place in school – did he mean the human nurse in Mindtouch who had a crush on Jahir?). Not all of their cases were easy or successful. When their work drained or upset them, they looked to each other for comfort. The little glimpses of the homey behaviors I liked so much in Mindtouch were nice, although, like everything else in this collection, they were very brief and not quite satisfying.

The longest and most short story-like entry in the collection was “The Case of the Poisoned House.” In that one, they dealt with a Harat-Shar client who'd been adopted by Hinichi parents when she was five. After their mother's death, her Hinichi brother, concerned for her, sought out Jahir and Vasiht'h. Jahir and Vasiht'h spent most of the story trying to figure out what the root of their client's problems was. Had she been on Harat-Sharii too long and unconsciously come to expect love to be demonstrated in the way a Harat-Shar would? Their biggest clue was their client's dream, in which she desperately cleaned a house in an effort to find the poison that was killing her but not affecting her Hinichi family. It was an interesting case, but it ended too abruptly – I would have liked to see how treatment turned out. This story had me wondering about how Harat-Shar raise their children – there were a few mentions of this in Earthrise, but they either weren't very clear or I just had a block where Harat-Shar culture was concerned.

I agonized over buying this, because, at $1.99 for 9,690 words, it cost more than I would usually pay for something so short. I hit the “buy” button mostly because I loved Jahir and Vasiht'h in Mindtouch and knew this was going to feature them. The verdict, now that I've read it: it's nice, but definitely overpriced. Even if it were cheaper, I don't know that I would recommend it to anyone who hadn't already read Mindtouch and fallen in love with Jahir and Vasiht'h.

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