Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Laundress of Silver Lake (e-short story) by Julie Jansen, plus some Freading app first (and last?) impressions

“The Laundress of Silver Lake” is a short science fiction story. It was one of my public library e-book checkouts.

There is a slight spoiler near the end of the review. And there's no read-alikes or watch-alikes list for this one.


Ever since Freading “upgraded” their site, the only way I've been able to open their e-books on my tablet is with the Freading app. I currently have this story and a novel checked out via Freading, and I decided a short story would be a less daunting way to try out the app.

This story is very short, only five or six pages according to the app. The main character, Arvid, is investigating sightings of the Laundress of Silver Lake. Josephine Fritzkiev, the legendary Laundress, was able to get clothes amazingly white. No matter how often people asked her, she never shared her secret. When Silver Lake and all its inhabitants were vaporized by a massive solar flare in 2270, it was assumed that Josephine's secret had died with her. Now, over a decade later, people swear they keep seeing her out and about, washing dirty laundry. Those who have tried to find her have never returned. Arvid is determined to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Arvid was not a very intelligent person. Either that, or he was a complete and utter urbanite who had somehow never learned that nature could be dangerous.

The secret to Josephine's clothes whitening abilities was mildly humorous (in a dark sort of way), but I was left with a lot of questions. If a solar flare had somehow destroyed the town of Silver Lake, would there really have been that many animals and that much greenery left in the area? Can solar flares even do something like that? Prior to the solar flare, how did Josephine manage to deal with the significant drawback of her clothes whitening technique without anybody noticing? After the solar flare, why did she stick around? Was doing laundry really her only purpose in life? And what kind of purpose is that, when there's no one else around who has laundry that needs doing?

I might have enjoyed Josephine's secret more if I hadn't seen Jurassic Park. “The Laundress of Silver Lake” reminded me a little too much of one particular scene.

Additional Comments:

Now, the verdict for the Freading app itself. I like its night mode, which features light gray text on a black background. I am less enthusiastic about how visual display options must be applied. Unless there's some kind of setting I'm missing, everything from text size to background and font color must be changed by going into “Settings.” No pinching in and out on the text to increase or decrease font size, no swiping to change the screen brightness.

While the Freading app allows users to highlight text and take notes, it has its own annoying aspects. Highlighting color, like all other visual settings, must be changed in the “Settings” screen. That is, if you can get the change to stick. I tried changing my highlighting color from yellow to green and every new thing I highlighted kept showing up as yellow.

Highlighting text activates an annoying “text magnifier.” Mantano Reader also did this when I first installed it, but I was able to change the setting and make it go away. This doesn't appear to be possible in the Freading app.

All in all, while this app can do many of the things my other reading apps can do, it does them in a very clunky way. I haven't yet decided whether having access to library e-books is worth having to deal with this app. It's not like I don't have lots of e-books of my own to read, and I can finish up the Paratwa Saga via ILL. Still, I'll miss being able to try out something new in seconds, without having to buy it.

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