Review #17: Bridesicle by Will McIntosh

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Apr 2, 2010 in Reviews

Published by: Asimov’s Science Fiction, 2009

IciclePhoto by Kodismom Creative Commons

The Story:

Mira died in a car accident, but that’s not the worst of her problems. She’s now a bridesicle — half icicle, half mail order bride — waiting for her prince charming to revive her cryogenically frozen body. Only it’s not exactly the princes that go to the dating centers of the dead. It’s the weirdos, the perverts, and the old men looking for the affection of pretty young things. And apparently not even those types are interested in Mira. She slips in and out of death, for decades on end, trying to convince her would be suitors to give her a second chance at life in exchange for her hand in marriage. Her future depends on the sweet nothings she can mutter form her cold, blue lips, wooing men with her flaccid face and dead eyes…

The Craft: Character Arcs

SPOILERS

Mira wakes up eighty years after her death, unable to move anything thing besides her face. She quickly learns that she’d been frozen after her accident, and is now at the mercy of the men visiting her icy crypt to pay for her revival. The world Mira had known is gone, including her mother, whose consciousness had been implanted in Mira’s brain. Mira has considerable guilt about losing her mother, despite that her mother hadn’t done much to deserve such sentiment. Having her mother constantly in hitching along on her thoughts, judging her every move, and second guessing her decisions had made Mira’s life a living hell, and she’s relieved to finally be rid of her.

But trapped in a half-death, Mira now has bigger problems, namely getting the nerve to convince some desperate schmuck that she’ll love him only if he’ll free her. She’s got guilt about this too. She’s never had to deceive, and she lies to Lycan, a shy, overweight man who visits her on occasion. It pains her not be herself, to bend to fit his fantasy of a woman and to tell him the sweet things he so desperately wants to hear. Mira finds the strength within her to pretend she’s interested in him, even though in life, she hadn’t been interested in men at all. As it turns out though, Lycan had secrets of his own. He doesn’t have the money to revive Mira.

The good news is that Mira learns that her girlfriend Jeanette had been frozen, too, and Lycan passes a message to her, just a few crypts away. Mira’s outlook changes instantly, and now she truly has something to live for. Another century or so passes before she gets her next chance at freedom, from an orange-tinted attorney looking for a surrogate to birth a child for him and his late wife, who’s hitching in his head. And apparently it’s pretty crowded in the orange man’s brain, who’s Lycan’s grandson as it turns out. Lycan’s hitching too, trying to convince the orange man and his wife to choose Mira as the surrogate. Mira makes a case for herself, tries to say all the right things, but it’s just not enough. Finally, she tells the truth, that she’s gay, hoping it’ll ease the wife’s jealousy.

Mira never liked having her mother as a hitcher, but she admires how the orange man and his family coexist in a sort of marital bliss. After she’s free and raising her child, she decides she wants to experience a that bliss for herself. She doesn’t have the money to revive Jeannette, but she’s got enough to get her consciousness implanted. They’ll be together through this life at least, and maybe more. In this delightfully odd Nebula Award contender, Mira is stuck in a state where she must constantly reevaluate her morals and motives in her search for freedom. She betrays herself, but at the same time, grows into a stronger woman, realizing that she doesn’t need to be anchored down by the guilt and hurt from past lives. She also realizes that she’d given up too soon on love, the one thing that’s able to transcend death, even without fancy technology.

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Review #16: Saving the Gleeful Horse by K.J. Bishop

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Mar 27, 2010 in Reviews

Published by: Fantasy Magazine, March 22, 2010

PiñataPhoto by Peasap Creative Commons

The Story:

Molimus, a great giant so broad it takes four men’s shirts stitched together to clothe him, lives under a bridge collecting flotsam for trade. From his vantage, he witnesses the assassinations of marvelous, colorful animals, beaten to death by the sticks and swords of children. Molimus can’t believe how cruel these children are, taking pleasure in the kill, then plundering the prizes that tumble out of the animals’ carcasses — prizes like caramels and toy rings.

When Molimus finds a vibrant little horse that had somehow lived through a savage beating, he decides to nurture it back to health. Though it’s full of holes, the horse remains in good cheer, but beyond bandaging up the wounds, Molimus knows nothing of how to give life back to the horse. So he sets out to see the White Ma’at, an old, old woman who knows all and sees most.

The Craft: Character Arcs

SPOILERS

In the first part of the story, Molimus’s character comes off as gentle and compassionate, yet spiteful. Despite his size and strength, his occupation is one of quiet and patience, sifting through the flotsam passing under his bridge for objects of value to barter. Molimus has a strong sense of morality, and feels strongly about the atrocities the children bring upon such magnificent creatures. He opens his heart up to one such creature, a horse struggling for survival, and takes it upon himself to nurse his Gleeful Horse back to health.

Molimus’s compassion and spite are shown again later in the story when he visits the White Ma’at. Even though she tells Molimus that the children are not to blame, for they do not see the animals as living as they do, Molimus hangs on to his hatred of the children for their vile acts. However, he’s sensitive enough to realize that something is troubling the White Ma’at, and he knows that she must be tired of the prison she finds herself in, trapped in her home by Prince November. Molimus feels for her, and he wants to save the Gleeful Horse, so he makes a deal with the White Ma’at that will help them both.

Molimus is tasked with filling the Gleeful Horse with treasure to restore its life, but the White Ma’at tells him that it’s not the trinkets that spill from the treasure animals’ wounds that he must find. He needs to collect starlike pieces, which are only found in living things, most abundantly in children. Molimus, who’s been full of compassion and virtue up until now, starts to feel something else — shame. The shame, now tangible in Molimus’s throat, gets coughed up, and once he’s rid of it, he’s able to go on his journey. He steals life from children and splits it between the White Ma’at so she can build power to escape Prince November, and his Gleeful Horse which devours the life quickly, requiring Molimus to harvest more and more.

While Molimus’s intentions are good, he goes from a gentle giant to a monster, and in the grand pursuit of saving one life, he’s forced to take the lives of countless others. Maybe Molimus beleived deep down that the children were innocent of their cruelty. Maybe that’s why he had felt qualms about the deal he made with the White Ma’at. The possiblities are fun to think about, and I like that the truth is not explicity spelled out. I enjoyed sharing Molimus’s journey with him, though I’m grateful I could do so without sharing his fate.

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Review #15: The Kiss by Lauren LeBano

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Mar 18, 2010 in Reviews

Published by: Strange Horizons, March 15, 2010

BleachersPhoto by Suzie T Creative Commons

The Story: Annie has a goblin for a friend — a short and well dressed fellow with yellow, hungry eyes. He leaves her gifts of golden trinkets, but when Annie’s mother learns about this green-skinned friend, she begs Annie to tell him to leave her alone, scared he’ll steal Annie away. But Annie likes the goblin, so she only banishes him to the far end of her bedroom instead of out of her life completely.

And so he watches her, silently. Day after day. Waiting for her to change her mind.

The Craft: Character Arcs

SPOILERS

If characters made sensible decisions, then there’d never be a story. Annie is no exception to this. She’s presented with a series of choices involving her interactions with the goblin, fueled by her shaky relationship with her mother, and eventually her daughter, too. As a child, Annie is enamored with the shiny trinkets that the goblin provides for her. She calls him a friend, though evidence of that is somewhat lacking. She’s friendly to him, yes, but their relationship seems to be a bit on the opportunistic side. Annie gets what she wants from him as a child and a teen — trinkets and companionship — but the goblin never gets what he truly wants.

It’s no wonder why Annie uses the goblin so. She finds out that her own mother had promised Annie to the goblin in exchange for success, which maybe explains a little why the goblin seems to be intent on marrying Annie. She banishes the goblin for good this time, then pursues her own life so she can buy her own trinkets, acquiring a family along the way. Her marriage dissolves, and when motherhood momentarily drives Annie to her wits’ end, she again calls upon the goblin and asks him to take her daughter away. But he doesn’t want the child. He wants Annie. Too late, she banishes the goblin again, and although her daughter is perhaps too young to understand what has happened, a great rift opens up between them. Annie carries out her motherly obligations, as well as she can raise a child that hates her. And at her daughter’s high school graduation, Annie sees her goblin, her tool, standing near the bleachers as he always has. There she kisses him, a kiss that paints her invisible to the world and her obligations, free to be the girl she’d meant to be.

I liked that this story chose the road less traveled, the character whose nature does not change. Annie uses the goblin in the beginning, and is still using him in the end, stringing him along, getting everything she needs from him and offering him nothing in return. For a brief moment in her life, she does try providing for herself, so driven to be something better than her mother that she alienates her husband and daughter in the process. Annie follows through with her motherhood obligations, but at the first opportunity regresses back to that carefree girl dancing, twirling.

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