From the start of The Dorley Cycle web-serial, Cindy Vaskova’s writing flows like a dream into a horror drenched in madness. A touch of the surreal at times, and quick jabs of horror in others, the web-serial dishes out single shots for Friday Flash stitching together a journey. The series is great for those looking to take a quick trip during lunch break, or enjoy several pages at a time.
Jackson Dee (unnamed in the first episode) returns to the fishing town of Dorley finding a mermaid caught in a fishing net on the beach. The strange sight is a reminder of the stories from childhood about the monsters in the sea. The second episode continues with a brief argument between Jackson and the mermaid about those old stories of the siren’s call. Jackson promises to let the mermaid go, insisting that he is not bad, but watches himself bash the mermaid with a rock. And so begins Jackson’s descent into horror uncovering the town’s dark secrets.
At Chapter XI, Jackson faces a monster and gets sucked inside a reality-twisted Chapter XII where he must distinguish the truth to fight his way out. And Jackson does only to find himself in a prison cell. Even weekly visitors thrown off by the warping are swept back in by the end of the episode, and a smooth follow-through for those with good memories or reading in the same sitting. I love stories that distort reality so the reader experiences the character’s struggle within the mind and the strangeness of the environment. Vaskova does a nice job. For this reason, Chapter XII episode is my favorite so far.
Vaskova tells Jackson Dee’s story from the first-person perspective. I might be more critical when reading stories in the first-person perspective, even realizing writing in first-person requires more skill, but a few tricky places bounces me from the story. Due to Vaskova’s lush, easy-going language, stumbles are rare. The story would do well as an audio narration especially with a strong voice.
As of this writing, The Dorley Cycle is unfinished at the twelfth installment, a fine time to dive in or catch up. Expect to find a few beasts with a Lovecraft flair. Due to a smattering of language, I recommend The Dorley Cycle by Cindy Vaskova for mature readers.
I prefer soaking in stories, dive in and become a part of the world, easier done with novels. Web-serials with long breaks between postings, are tougher to follow, especially ones with subtle plot twists or reality warps. When I find a good one, I go back and read through pages at a time.
After the twelfth chapter of The Dorley Cycle, I returned to read through in two trips. The episodes work fine one at a time, which is great for Friday Flash, and even better reading at my pace, munching through several pages. That was when I suggested to Vaskova on Twitter to update each page with a link to the next making it easier for new readers to follow. I highly recommended keeping web-serials updated with navigation links to avoid road blocks for readers. Contents listing without the next page links adds an extra step to navigate through. This little improvement makes a big difference, one I’m certain readers will enjoy while discovering monsters in Vaskova’s web-serial for the first time or the second.