DiscoverLiterary Fiction

The Starfish's Grove


Not for me 😔

A valiant effort at tackling an intriguing subject.


The Pendulum is dying. Andra is missing. Save her, or the time may cease to pass.

A young man named Eberhard sets out on a magical journey to a post-apocalyptic, dystopian reality, where he must complete a vital task. He must rescue Andra. If he fails, the world will fall apart.
Meanwhile, his friend and roommate, Frederic, wants to help his friend. Although, all he can do is wait until it rains…with clock hands.
Join them in their amazing adventure, listen to Starfish’s voice and, whatever urges you to, don’t look for The Pendulum.

Does the world really look the way we see it? What might happen if the word “true” lost its meaning?

These are some of the themes explored in this Alice in Wonderland meets The Matrix and Somewhere in Time type fantasy novel.

Eberhard (“Ebi,” meaning “shrimp” in Japanese) is a private hospice worker. A sea creature talks to him in a dream and asks Ebi to do him a favor or “run an errand for him.” Starfish, who lives in The Grove, explains that “The only series of events leading to the completion of the task is the one where you find Andra.” Andra is Ebi’s future girlfriend. Meanwhile, who’da thunk the existence of the whole world hinges on a starfish and its ability to close an underwater passage? (It worked for Frodo.)

Many dreams and much rain ensue. Ditto microchips. Magnetic gloves. Seas of illusions. Poetry. A comet strike and a vault. A sentient squirrel. A glass maze and a minotaur. An enchanted seat in a cafeteria. Riddles wrapped in engimas. And whatever you do in this task, do not look for the pendulum.

This book has potential, but the timeline and focus are problematic. It essentially attempts to cover the “pendulum of everything,” the time/space continuum, the “death of life,” the meanings of love and life in the universe via fantasy and magical realism. It’s a pretty tall order for a 237 page fantasy tale. In the end, it tries too hard. The storyline remains obtuse and elusive.

The narration also has some trouble with basic English. Some of the phrasing and word choice is a bit clunky. (Alcohol kicking in and warming up Ebi’s “vines.” He thought he’d “live” his phone number. Bat’s stomach full of “pray.” Eberhard puts his drinking glass in the “washing machine”?)  

The text is also overwritten in places. We get that sudden darkness can feel “scary, mysterious and gloomy.” No need to pontificate further.  Also, seemingly random characters tend to wander in and out of the story without substantively advancing the plot.

Although the text suffers from occasional grammatical and usage errors and overwriting, readers may be willing to overlook same due to the unusual premise and a deep dive into the time/space continuum. The story is told backwards, with the Table of Contents following the Epilogue. Some readers will find this approach fresh, creative, and invigorating. Others will find it incoherent. (Curiously, the narrator does not seem to be aware that starfish are salt water creatures. They do not live in fresh ponds from which deer drink, as described in this book.)

Still, this is a valiant effort at tackling an intriguing subject. With some rewrites and professional edits, this story has potential. Like a sweet fairy tale.

Reviewed by

Kristine earned her Bachelor's degree in Communication/Print Media from Biola University. Her background is in marketing and public relations.

Kristine serves on the Board of her local library.

A frank but fair reviewer, she reads an average of 300+ books a year through a wide variety of genres.


The Pendulum is dying. Andra is missing. Save her, or the time may cease to pass.

A young man named Eberhard sets out on a magical journey to a post-apocalyptic, dystopian reality, where he must complete a vital task. He must rescue Andra. If he fails, the world will fall apart.
Meanwhile, his friend and roommate, Frederic, wants to help his friend. Although, all he can do is wait until it rains…with clock hands.
Join them in their amazing adventure, listen to Starfish’s voice and, whatever urges you to, don’t look for The Pendulum.

Her name is Andra

‘It’s hard not to miss, isn’t it? It seems almost impossible to win.’

I heard a pleasant, deep voice from somewhere near me.

‘Yes, you’re right’, I said, and I turned around to see who I was talking to, but I didn’t spot anyone. I felt a little anxious, but I quickly managed to get myself together. This voice had clearly been just my imagination.

‘No need to look around. You won’t find me this way.’

The deep voice carried on.

‘I’ll tell you how to see me and I’ll introduce myself. It’s just not the time and place for it right now. Let me help you first.’

The voice kept silent for a while, as if it was mulling something over. In a minute, it spoke again.

‘I need to ask you something. Why are you playing this game?’

‘I want to get this teddy bear, the one other there’, I said, and I pointed at the award I endeavoured to get.

‘I just can’t win. To get this teddy bear, I’d have to make a whole pyramid of aluminium cans collapse by throwing a ball at it. My best is to make just two cans fall over. I’m hopeless at it.’

‘Is there someone you wish to give this bear to?’

‘Provided that I win…’

‘Provided that you win.’

‘Yes, there is. I’d like to give it as a gift to my girlfriend.’

‘What’s her name?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘You don’t know…’

The voice repeated after me.

‘…but still you want to give her this teddy bear.’

‘That’s right’, I confirmed.

‘She must be very emotional and sensitive, your girlfriend I mean. I guess she gets along with children pretty well.’

‘I don’t know. To be frank, I haven’t met her yet.’

‘You haven’t met her yet…’

The voice repeated after me again.

‘…but you will.’

‘I will?’

The voice’s certainty surprised me a bit.

‘You said you wanted to give her this teddy bear.’

‘I suppose.’

‘That is why you’ll definitely meet her. In fact, I even know her name. Do you want me to tell you?

‘Tell me’, I asked.

‘Her name is Andra.’

I was silent.

‘You don’t like it, do you?’

‘I do…I adore it. I’ve never heard such a beautiful name before.’

I lost words and kept silent for a moment. When I heard the name ‘Andra’, I quivered. I quivered so hard that I found myself completely paralysed. I couldn’t speak. I felt my lips move but no sound came out of my mouth. Just as if I forgot how to utter or as if someone had cut off my tongue. Neither of these two would be pleasant for me. For the first time in my life, I experienced beauty in such pure form. I saw this name, I felt it, I heard it. It carried along a smell of blackberries and pink pepper. I squinted my eyes and I ended up watching colourful stripes and dots flying past me. In a while, they merged into colourful syllables: ‘And – ra’. The former looked purple, and the latter seemed red. I felt dizzy.

‘How hard do you want to meet her. Tell me’, the strange voice asked.

‘So hard that I could travel the whole world to do it right now.’

‘Good, because you will have to take a bit of a challenge. Brace yourself.’

‘Life is full of challenges.’

What a hackneyed bunch of words. Sadly, nothing else came to my mind.

‘You’re saying it in a way it sounds sad. Would you rather life was just dull and monotonous?’

‘I guess not.’

‘You guess not.’

The voice was mocking me a little.

‘You choose words very cautiously. Something tells me you’re afraid of the meaning they carry.’

‘I am’, I confessed.

‘You are a bit cowardly, but you seem to be a kind man. I’ll help you get this teddy bear.’

‘Thanks. What do I do?’

‘You’re trying to make a pyramid of aluminium cans collapse by throwing a ball at it. The cans are light, and the ball is quite heavy, so there shouldn’t really be a problem. However, you still find it almost impossible to do. Why?’

‘Because I’m so bad at this game?’

‘Because you don’t know where the ball is going to hit.’

‘Nobody knows it. I’ll only know if I throw it. Well, actually…’, I hesitated for a moment, then continued with the thought.

‘…actually, I could predict where the ball hits if I used a formula assessing a throw’s range and then…’

‘Then you wouldn’t know where the ball hits. You’d be able just to estimate, where this place might be. That’s completely different, don’t you think?’

‘How am I supposed to know where the ball hits for certain?’

‘You can’t, but I can, and I’ll show you. Buy credit for four more throws. The fourth one will let you win the game.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Trust me on this. I’ll explain it to you later. An amusement park isn’t the right place for such conversations.’


‘Then let’s go.’

‘Then let’s go’, I repeated.

I felt a bit weird talking to myself. I often do it in fact. I came back to the game stand and I bought credit for four more throws, just as the deep, eerie voice asked.

‘A stubborn one, aren’t you?’, the lady at the game stand asked.

‘Kids told you to win this teddy bear for them and there’s no getting out of it, am I right?’

‘More or less’, I prompted and closed my eyes for a second.

I focused and I threw the first ball. It flew past the pyramid of cans and landed on the ground just a few inches away. It happens, this is quite likely. I threw the second ball. Watching it spinning hypnotized me and I got the impression I could hear its flight through plain air. That was peculiar but quite amazing. I felt separated from the rest of the world, and it was only that throw which mattered. Just as the weird voice predicted, the second ball missed as well. I took a deep breath and threw the third one. I missed once more. I couldn’t believe it. Was the voice a clairvoyant or what?

‘Tough luck, mister’, the lady seemed to pity me.

‘Why won’t you just let it go? You can go to a store and buy the same teddy bear with no effort.’

No, there’s no other teddy bear like this one anywhere. I ignored her words and focused on the throw. Before the ball got out of my hand, I heard a sound of water splashing. It was so intense, loud, and clear. I hadn’t time to think about it though. The ball hit the pyramid and made it collapse. I did it. I won.

The lady at the game stand went pale while handing me the teddy bear.

‘Tough luck you said, huh?’, I teased her, then I turned around and walked away.

When I left the amusement park holding the teddy bear in my hands, I thought about the strange deep voice and I wanted to thank him. Something made me anxious though. I couldn’t see the owner of the voice during our conversation, but I felt his presence. I’m not sure how exactly, but I did. I sensed this warmth and humidity all around me. Oh, and the smell of rain. I’ve just become aware that I felt this to. My nostrils were being hit by thousands of memories picturing beautifully shaped drips of water. It didn’t rain at all today though. That’s crazy. Anyway, the smell of rain was gone by the time I’d left the amusement park. I struggled to feel it, but I just couldn’t. I wasn’t able to find it. It felt said. How can I thank somebody I don’t even know the name of?

I was still lost in thoughts when I got in my car and started the engine. I needed to put all those thoughts away for a while and focus on the road. When I got home, I put the teddy bear on a couch in the living room and sat beside it. What a peculiar adventure I’ve just had, I thought. I stood up and poured myself a glass of black currant juice. I drank it bottoms up and put the glass in the washing machine. I went to the bathroom to take a shower. Before I rinsed myself, I peered at my towel for a while. I spotted a tiny little crab hafted on its corner. The ball hitting a pyramid of aluminium cans. What did it have to do with a sound of splashing water anyway? I closed my eyes and pictured myself throwing enormous bubbles of water at the pyramid. They were so heavy and dense they must have weighed hundreds of pounds. Just one such bubble was enough to make the whole pyramid collapse and then it went beyond it to make a huge hole in the canvas the stand had been made of. The water’s temperature got so high that I started to suffocate so I immediately turned it down.

I felt tired when I left the bathroom. I covered myself with a towel, lied down on the couch and fell asleep. I’ve never had such deep and long a sleep before. I dreamt I stood naked on a peak of a mountain and was letting raindrops fall right into my mouth. They tasted incredibly well, just slightly sweet. They refreshed me a lot. It was all dark and scary around. I heard thunders and I saw bolts cutting the sky like knives made of light. To my own dismay, I didn’t feel any kind of fear. I was so calm I’d never thought I could be. This overwhelming sanity made me feel a bit strange, but it didn’t bother me. Suddenly, I felt pain in my left foot. I looked closer at it and I saw something sucked up onto it. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I manged to spot a few scales shining in the darkness. Then, I heard this eerie deep voice again.

‘You will have to take a challenge to find your girlfriend’

It said, and then the dream ended.

I woke up swimming in my own sweat. I was terrified. I glanced at my watch. It showed four a.m. I didn’t have the slightest clue why, but I suddenly thought about Hamlet’s monologue and remembered it so vividly that I had to say a part of it out loud.

‘To be or not to be, that is the question…whether ‘tis nobler in mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…’

I felt sleepy again after I’d said it and didn’t wake up till the next morning. 

About the author

I'm a curious young man who is passionate about science and storytelling. I love to imagine surrealistic phenomena happening in everyday lives and write about them on my good old typewriter. I also love to run, cook and learn new languages. I find inspiration in everything around me! view profile

Published on April 28, 2020

Published by

40000 words

Genre: Literary Fiction

Reviewed by