A Soul In A Bottle, Tim Powers (Author), J. K. Potter (Illustrator), Subterranean Press, 86 pp, hardcover, 2006, $22.00.
It would be a stretch to call A Soul In A Bottle a novella. It is an illustrated short story. George Sydney, a second hand book hunter finds a 1968 first edition of poems which is very unique. There is within it a poem which does not appear in any other first edition of the book. The discovery is preceded by the appearance of a waif who George realizes later, may be the poet, Cheyenne Fleming. Soon George's new acquaintance reveals a fountain-pen and requests a special favor from George.
But first edition experts report that Cheyenne Fleming committed suicide and the estate is administered by her sister, Rebecca Fleming, who is also a poet. Can George bring the poet who may be the waif, back to life? If he does, will lose his much younger love interest who maybe the author or the author's ghost?
If George helps the author change a poem in the first edition that she authored then will the innocent Rebecca be harmed, or the author Cheyenne be avenged? Powers's intricately crafted story explores loneliness, alcoholism, vulnerability, and the afterlife. The story's impact is both visceral and moral. Personal choice and personal freedom, vengeance and justice, fear and pity are countervailing issues that are entangled within the three main characters.
Potter's evocative illustration are black, white and gray photographs superimposed on each other. Power's story is reminiscent of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone and Richard Matheson's stories from the 1950s and 1960s. Enjoyable and clever, A Soul In A Bottle is short story that is both entertaining and representative of fine writing.