Friday, March 31, 2017

"Great Blue Heron" by Joyce Carol Oates

"Great Blue Heron" by Joyce Carol Oates 

This story comes from the anthology "Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales" edited by Ellen Datlow. 

This story was interesting.  The prose was wonderful and sucked you right into the story from the get go.  I was hooked from the first line of this story. 

A woman, Claudia,  heard a cry from the pond in her backyard.  She awakened to the sound.  The sound was from a blue heron.  There are quite a few waterfowl on her pond, but the cry of the blue heron was quite unmistakable.  Yet she doesn't realize the sound is from a blue heron, yet.  She slips next to her husband in bed and sleeps right next to him, in his protective arms.  Safe.  Always safe in his arms. 

After she awakened she reached for her husband, James, but he isn't there.  He died just a short time ago.  Three weeks ago.  Now she has to deal with her brother-in-law.  A man who has always fancied her, but never quite came right out and said it.  He would make awkward advances towards her and always get uncomfortably close to her while talking to her.  She hated the man. 

Claudia has to deal with her brother-in-law visiting over and over again.  He thought that since her husband died and left her as the executrix that she might need some help.  She doesn't need help though.  She was too in shock to truly tell him no though. So she put up with his presence and conversation although she never really talked to him at all. 

The brother-in-law attempted to get her to sell he house and property.  There is too much house and land for one person he would tell her.  Too much work for one person to handle on their own.  Finally she told the brother-in-law that she would not sell the house and would not need his help.  This doesn't sway the brother-in-law though and he keeps at her trying as he may to talk her into selling. 

Throughout the story she entered dreamland.  She would visit her husband during these dream cycles.  They would hold hands and walk around the pond watching the waterfowl and birds.  During one of these dreams she watched a blue heron swoop down and attack a family of ducks.  The blue heron ate eggs and baby ducks while the parents just watched, helpless.  Claudia was aghast at the brutality of the blue heron.  There was nothing she could do except watch nature take it's course. 

It was also during these dream cycles that she would visit her husband in that she discovered the cry of the blue heron.  She was so excited to find out what had been making the sound she had heard for so long.  She cried out to her husband upon the discovery. 

From that point on after watching the destruction of the blue heron, she would turn into a blue heron to deal with her stressful situations.  The blue heron gave her strength and courage.  When life became to much for her to live, it never seemed like too much for the blue heron. 

When she saw a group of boys throwing rocks at the ducks, she turned into a blue heron and chased them away.  She pecked that tore at them.  Pecking out eyes and tearing flesh.  She put forth the full destruction of the blue heron upon the vagrant boys. 

When her brother in law wouldn't leave her alone after repeatedly telling him no and to go away, she turned into a blue heron.  She pecked and bit and tore his flesh from his, piece by piece and eye by eye.  She found great strength in becoming the heron. 

Then the police found a dead man, Claudia's brother-in-law.  With his eyes pecked out and flash torn and ripped.  It was similar to another recent crime involving a group of boys by the pond. 

Was this all just a dream?  Or was it real?  Did she have a breakdown and in a fit of rage destory the lives of those who betrayed her?  Did she wake up from another visit to dreamland to have vivid memories of her dreams?  Or did she wake to remember what she did before she slept? 

This was a wonderfully done story.  I like the way the author used character names in this story.  She referred to character by their relation to each other.  The wife, the husband, the brother-in-law, etc.  This lended a great deal more to the use of actual names when they were used.  It made the names of the chracters have a great force behind them because any other time only their relation would be used. 

The use of names instead of relations also gave a more immediacy to the scene, and the paragraph, because it made you more acutely aware of what was being said.  I found that an interesting use of language on the part of the author. 

Also the structuring of the story was sort of a mind trip.  When was she sleeping, and dreaming, when was she awake?  The constant wondering of which state of mind Claudia was in made the story that much better for me.  This style of writing added multiple layers upon each other and never really knowing what was what.  This helped immensley with the ending of the story.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

"Breathe My Name" by Christopher Golden

"Breathe My Name" by Christopher Golden 

This story comes from the collection "Tell My Stories To The Stones" written by Christopher Golden. 

Tommy Betts first entered the mine when he was eighteen.  Up to that point his father had been the only one in the family working the mine.  Tommy was always afraid for his father in the mines.  Tommy used to think that one day his father, Al Betts, would drill straight into hell.  It wasn't until Tommy entered the mine that he realized it wasn't that far off from what he used to fear for his father. 

In the mine the men were by themselves.  Nobody could save them if the mine decided to collapse.  And even the most toughest man freaked out occasionally from claustrophobia..  There were many things that could go wrong in the mine. 

One day  after the crew was lowered into the mine via mantrip, one of the crew asked Tommy if he smelled anything funny.  Tommy told him that he didn't smell anything and left it at that.  Then a short while later Tommy did smell something funny.  In fact the entire crew started smelling it.  That's when the earth rumbled and black smoke started pouring into the tunnel.  Fear crossed the crews face, including Al Betts. A cave-in. 

The crew went deeper into the mine where there was a safe space.  Puttning up a tarp they created a safe space, but with a limited air supply.  They took turns with a sledgehammer pounding out a distress signal on the metal infrastructure hoping someone above ground would hear them and send help. 

While they were sucking up the limited air in the safe space Tommy stated talking about the Lost Miner.  The lost miner was a legend in the mine.  A miner who died while working in the mine. 

Tommy decided that since no one seemed to be coming for them the only thing left to do was call upon the Lost Miner.  Tommy asked his dad what the name of the Lost Miner's name was and he told Tommy his name was Ostergaard.  Tommy started calling out for Ostergaard to help them and come and save them.  He called for the ghost of the Lost Miner before his father shut him up. 

Men started to pass out and they already were suffering casualties due to the lack of oxygen.  There seemed to be no hope.  Or was there?  Was the lost miner real, or did the people above ground come and find them?  I'll let you read and find out. 

This was a fun ghost story.  Told a little differently than a typical ghost story.  Normally the ghost story would be told around a campfire, or as a story someone else was relaying to someone else.  This one took place in a "real-time" scenario.  Meaning that I wasn't being relayed to anyone as a story within a story, but the ghost story was the actual story. 

I greatly enjoyed this story.  To be honest it wasn't anything that will keep me up at night or even think twice about turning off the lights before bedtime.  I did find the story to be a page turner though because I wanted to know how it ended.  I really felt a connection with the main character in this story.   

There were many side characters in this story, none of them really developed into anything, they were just there for dialogue purposes in my opinion.  The main character Tommy though developed well throughout the story.  By the end you could feel for him in his situation and why he did what he did.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

"Shooting the Apocalypse" by Paolo Bacigalupi

"Shooting the Apocalypse" by Paolo Bacigalupi 

This story comes from the anthology "Loosed Upon The World" edited by John Joseph Adams. 

The end of the world?  Or maybe just the beginning to the end?  This story was definitely a wake-up call for some of the basic resources we have here on earth.  One of them in particular, water. 

Texas has dried up and Phoenix is one of the few towns that still has water.  Phoenix's water supply is served by a canal that connects to the Colorado River.  The canal is called CAP, or Central Arizona Project.  The CAP is made of cement and protected by surrounding chain link fencing.  The CAP is an engineering feat of great magnitude.  The bureaucrats successfully negotiated the project before all of Texas dried up.  In the end Phoenix had better government officials.  

Texans are constantly trying to breach the CAP for water.  There is a sort of civil war between Texans and the residents of Phoenix.  They hate each other to the point of killing each other.  The Texans want water and the Phoenicians don't want to give it up.  

The story takes place in a near future America.  A photographer named  Timo, and a journalist, Lucy, are looking for the next big story.  Lucy is afraid that all the good stories have been scooped.  For every idea that Timo throws out to her she tells him some major publisher that has covered the story. 

Then one day Timo received a tip.  He drove out into the middle of nowhere along the CAP.  There he found a dead Texan hanging from the chain link fence.  He called Lucy and told her where to meet him and that he had the story she was looking for.  While waiting for Lucy to arrive he started shooting shots of the dead Texan. 

When Lucy arrived at the scene she told Timo that the story has been done already.  Of course Texans want water, there is nothing new about that.  And there is nothing new about a Phoenician killing a Texan.  Timo told her to look deeper.  Look around and see the story.  Lucy looked further into the scene and the story starts piecing itself together.  Timo fills in the gaps of her knowledge. 

The man hanging from the chain link fence wasn't just a Texan who had been murdered.  He had prayer beads of a local church cult.  There were different items strewn about on the ground.  The items were used in rituals and prayers to Santa Muerte the Lady of Death.  The man was sacrificed.  There was a story.  That unfortunately was just the beginning of the story and it didn't end there. 

This was an interesting take on what our country would look like without the one vital resource we all require.  What would happen in towns and cities if the water just out and dried up?  This was an all to real scenario of what it could possibly turn into. 

Are we doing enough to protect our water resources in the world?  We have polluted rivers and streams and constantly have chemicals and by-products being dumped into them.  We have oceans that are rising and becoming more acidic killing of wild life. 

What would we do without the resource of water?  Well, we would die. 

A great read with a surprise twist at the end.  A definitely good tale.

All That Robot Shit by Rich Larson

"All That Robot Shit" by Rich Larson   All That Robot Shit was first published in Asimov Magazine, August 2016,  issue  ...