Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Finishing March F&SF
Finishing off the March issue of F&SF, there were two ignorable short stories.
"The Second Descent" by Richard Paul Russo is one of those "they're all dead" stories. I was initially hooked by the setting - a group of mountaineers descending a difficult mountain. It seemed that some of them had died up there. They have to get off the mountain, and they're trying to reach a city. However, as time goes on it seems that they aren't making any progress. Sometimes they can see the city, looking nearer or farther, most times they can't. The membership of the group keeps shifting, with people we thought were dead popping up again at points. It's all very vague. The implication is that they're all dead and they'll never get to the city, but so what? None of the characters have much in the way of characterization. I finished this one because I kept hoping it would resolve into something different, but it doesn't. It just ends. Every reader has their own preferences; I've got a large soft spot for stories about sentient books. Unfortunately I have an innate bias against stories about ambiguously dead people wandering aimlessly around a symbolic landscape. This story didn't overcome that bias.
The last story I ended up skipping. "A Ten-Pound Sack of Rice" by Richard Mueller starts out with an old man musing on his mortality. He speculates on the end of the world and his immediate surroundings in a very disconnected way. He thinks a bunch, and after a few pages his cat actually moves, the first action in the story. Then the old man starts musing about the cats he's had. And then I decided to pass. It didn't look like there was any danger of anything actually happening, and the man wasn't an interesting enough character to demand that I find out what happens to him. I suspect that there's something wrong when the apocalypse and the memory of cats past get roughly equal billing.