I was hoping for my next post to be about this years hugo awards as the short story winners are still kicking around for free on the net and I am currently reading the winner of the ‘best novel’ category, Blackout by Connie Willis. Sadly, however, finishing my dissertation has severely limited my reading time, so another roundup of the free fiction available on the web will have to suffice.
Continuing in the same vein as last week, we kick off with a short from a well known author. This time Ursula K. Le Guin graces the tubes with The Island of the Immortals, over at Lightspeed magazine. Characteristically, Le Guin serves up an anthropological tale, studying as much the ennui filled attitudes of the Yendian people as she does the titular island. The tale clearly draws inspiration from Jonathon Swift’s undying Struldbrug’s, and paints a harrowing picture of immortality.
There are two new stories on tor.com this week, both looking forwards to Halloween by being somewhat horror’y. The first, Specimen 313, by Jeff Strand, follows one of Dr Prethorius’ experimental man-eating venus flytraps as it eats vagrants and, strangely, falls in love. Playing on the name of Doctor Septimus Pretorius from James Whale’s seminal The Bride of Frankenstein, the story contains as much madness and strange black wit as both The Bride, and the pieces other obvious forerunner, The Little Shop of Horrors.
The second offering from Tor, The Night Children, by Alexander Gordon Smith is more of a novella than a short story, so don’t start it unless you have an hour and a half to spare. An extremely cliched world war two piece about a reconnaissance team alone in the northern pine woods of Europe, replete with ‘Got yourself a girl back home, Kansas?’ style dialogue, and insane, horribly-scarred German Kolonel’s. Into this are thrown the rather nasty, amorphous night children, as well as bloated and giggling gas-masked nasties. The story is imaginative and graphic in its depiction of atrocity, and gets better as it goes along. Linked to the author’s Furnace series, the story features a cameo from the big bad of that particular cycle. Atmospheric and gory, but only occasionally rises above the level of particularly imaginative cliche. Still, definitely one to read if you like a tale that revels in it’s own pulpiness.