I’ve only been to Hawaii once, about six years ago. It was a beautiful place and about as alien to a desert dweller such as myself as you’re likely to get. We have volcanoes out here, but they all blew up millenia ago so we’re left with cones and big rocks. Hawaii has active volcanoes. They have beaches with black sand and little crabs that glare at you when you don’t share your picnic.
Hawaii also a lot of traditional Gods. That part wasn’t quite as alien to me; the Southwest is lousy with various Gods. The Hawaiian Gods are pretty damned cool, though, and the traditional representations of them are pretty awesome.
Bottom line: Hawaii is a pretty cool place.
So out of Hawaii’s long and interesting history comes Katerina Sestakova Novotna’s Hawaiian Lei of Shrunken Heads, a collection of stories both short and novella length about the various Gods and monsters of Hawaii and their interaction with outsiders. Now, I’m sure she’ll correct me if I’m wrong here, but Katerina brings an interesting to angle to the stories. She was born in the Czech Republic (which is interesting because I also work with a guy whose family is Czech) and has an ability to look at Hawaii’s history both as someone who lives there and someone who’s an outsider. Her respect for the history and religion of the islands is obvious throughout the stories and she manages to weave traditions into stories that aren’t bogged down with explanation or exposition and are accessible to people who (like me) aren’t overly familiar with Hawaii’s traditional pantheons.
Even just from the explanation of some of the traditional gods you get a huge amount of bang for your buck. Like Kū, the Hawaiian God of War who becomes the the background of the final story and, for all his fearsome visage, seems to be a decent sort if you approach him with respect.
The stories are mostly horror stories but they’re not gruesome and there’s some lightheartedness thrown into the mix making for an interesting and engaging read. Even if you’re not traditionally a horror fan these are some stories worth reading. In Katerina’s hands, the Gods become real and walk the island. If you’ve ever been to some of the more remote parts of Hawaii, you can almost imaging them walking out of the jungle. It’s a deeply philosophical, highly entertaining, eye-opening read.
As of right now Katerina doesn’t have any other social media sites out there. I’ll update this post if she creates any.