I think that this might just become an unofficial routine of this series. Pick one from the site’s current roster, two from the actual ebook collection. I am nothing if not a creature of habit. In this next installment we’ve got ghosts, fish tentacles, cold war threats, and mice made of dynamite!* Read on and read well, dear reader…
Ø. “Warm Up” by V.E. Schwab
David is a man who, after surviving a terrible accident during a mountain climb, is mysteriously endowed with psychokinetic abilities. Naturally, his ressurection from “death” and his dangerously unfocused powers put a strain on his marriage and family life, with his wife Samantha taking his son and leaving him for their own safety. After 297 days of self-imposed isolation, David ventures into the outside world to continue living his life and possibly find answers. But there are other forces at work beyond David’s comprehension, many of which do not have his immediate safety as one of their priorities.
This was a pretty intriguing and simple story. The use of “29- days since…” as a narrative refrain connecting David’s past, present, and future actions was a interesting and effective way of hooking the reader’s attention, giving them a set of constants in which to piece around the chronology of the story. I feel like this sets the stage for a world with elements that are likely to be continued on in a novel, filled with super-humans battling it out to regain a shred of normalcy or carving out a new form of “post-normalcy.” Warm Up ended on a terrific cliffhanger and I can’t wait to read more of this universe in Victoria Schwab’s novel “Vicious”.
3. “Foundation” by Ann Aguire
I think I can confidently look back and point to this story’s artwork in particular as one of the moments that seriously put Tor.com’s original content on my radar.
In Ann Aguirre’s award-winning novel, Enclave , humans have taken refuge in colonies below ground. “Foundation” is the story of what drove them there, told through the eyes of a teen who would later have vast influence over the fate of many, and who gave his heart to the one person who needed him most.
The main character, Robin Schiller, grows to make a life for herself in the enclaves. After being isolated for years alongside her mother and father, Robin comes in contact with a young boy named Austin who becomes her friend and confidante. There are more people living in the enclave, twenty-six in total, who must learn to work together in rebuilding a sense of community and shared sanity. Disease and desperation run rampant, the world is seemingly pushed beyond the point of repair, and eventually all of those left must venture out of the confines of the enclave into a world that is so much stranger, sadder, and predatorial.
A decent enough short story, I wish that more in the way of actual events happened but given the main environment is a vacuum-sealed disease shelter one can’t reasonably complain too much. Robin seems like an interesting character, I wish I got to know a different side of her from the latter half of “Foundation”. Perhaps later I might venture reading Ann Aguire’s continuation series, “Razorland.”
4. “The Department of Alterations” by Gennifer Albin
Karoline Swander is the wife of a high-ranking minister in the fictional city of Arras. Arras is a obviously a profoundly patriarchal place, as women are aggressively pressured to be demure, silent, and subservient to the demands of their husbands.
she is for some reason incapable of bearing children, and her husband resents her for compromising his social standing by “withholding” a family from him. Because of this, Karoline has enlisted a “tailor” to perform an operation that will allow her to give birth. Things do not go entirely as expected.
Apparently this story is also a mini-prologue to a novel by the same author titled “Crewel”, and in that sense I feel that “Foundation” is superior. It would seem that one would have to have already read or been aware of the novel in order to fully understand or enjoy “Alterations”, as I felt that many vague broad strokes of world-building were implied but never fully went about “building” a world for me. I have no idea what the city of Arras is like, aside from how they treat their women. I don’t know what a “Loom” is, I don’t know who Ambassador Cormac Patton or his army of thick-necks are, or for that matter what exactly “The Department of Alterations” really is and how it pertains to this story.
I would have liked it if there was more in the way of this story in framing for me the severity and stakes of Karoline’s “treason”, why such an action is treasonous at all, and perhaps other aspects that would flesh out the personality of her husband and home-life.
I wish I could say that this story was as provocative or as gorgeously macabre as the artwork, courtesy of Goni Montes. I wish I could read the story that artwork is trying to tell, because it’s not this one. So far right now, the only incentive I might have to venture reading “Crewel” is Montes’ visuals, not Albin’s prose.
*One or more of those descriptions may have been a outright, bald-faced lie!
A little late on this one. This is what the Sunday/Monday afternoon grace deadline is for! It just so happened that coincidentally, each of these short stories was in a way a promotion for a upcoming long-form continuation. Though the success of execution varies from story to story in that regard, overall the majority of these stories were quite enjoyable. Roll on to the next batch!
See you next Sunday, September 22nd!