Li Mao and the Yaoguai is a fantasy short story by Ross Hughes. I found this on Prolific Works where most of the books are free. Ones not free are usually clearly marked with notes such as “Amazon Download.” This short story is not available on Amazon. When I encounter a short story like this, I have a few questions about the author’s purpose. Is it to display writing style to get recognition for other works which cost more? Is the author writing for practice? Ross Hughes does an excellent job of descriptive writing. With an author name like Ross Hughes, readers might assume the writer is not Asian, but a choice of a pen name does not guarantee ethnic identity.
As far as content, this is a retelling of 1001 Arabian Nights. Li Mao is a solitary fisherman on a dull and tiresome day when the unexpected happens. The Yaoguai, a monster, rises to the bait Li Mao is using and consumes the bait, destroys the boat Li Mao is in and captures Li Mao. The creature is not solely an example of marine life, although the monster does drag Li Mao a distance underwater that stresses the ability of Li Mao to breathe. Eventually, Li Mao will end up in a cave well above ground.
Once in the cave, Li Mao confronts eight monsters, collectively known as the Yaoguai. While members of the tribe argue over who gets to eat the various portions of Li Mao, protagonist and hero Li Mao knows he must use his wits to survive. He offers to tell the group stories while he tries to figure out an escape plan. The Yaoguai agree to hear stories before dining. The anecdotes Li Mao relate have an easily understood moral, one which causes discord in the Yaoguai ranks. In confusion, Li Mao attempts to escape and while doing so may have invented the parachute.
The value of the story is in its display of writing skill related to description and vocabulary. Readers may know what a cormorant is, but how many know the function of the string Li Mao placed around its neck? If you guessed “so it won’t escape,” give yourself an X for incorrect. The line Li Mao uses has a different purpose. If the reader should find himself/herself in a cold environment described in this story, the reader should avoid donning a cerement for warmth. I like learning new terms or finding new uses for vocabulary already known. Combine that with descriptive writing about karst and the reading experience was worthwhile.
I do not post reviews from Prolific Works on Amazon, but if I did, I would give this short story four Amazon stars plus. I will look for more stories or novels from Ross Hughes.