Saturday, January 23, 2010

Blood Dauber

Novelette by Ted Kosmatka & Michael Poore

Given the name and the feel, I'd like to label this one a horror story, but not everyone shares my uneasiness about certain wasps, so combined with the evolutionary aspect of the story, most will consider it science fiction that is exceptionally light on fiction.

Bell is a financially troubled zookeeper at a financially troubled zoo. His marriage is a mess and his boss hates him. He is in charge of the entomology "castle", where he experiments on a species of wasp that exhibits some unusual evolutionary adaptations, giving the story its title. He is also in charge of the convicts who work community service, leading to the primary non-marital source of drama.

Plenty of your typical humans-as-animals comparisons, and the underlying story of Bell's own metamorphosis, which I can't peg as either a good or a bad thing, definitively, support my feeling that this is an introspective horror piece. The tone of the writing is sometimes humorous, but always very dark. I like it a lot.

And then the ending. Not a total surprise, but handled quite well. Sort-of happy ending, that doesn't seem happy at all. It strikes me as roughly as happy as the ending of 1984. I like it, but don't read this hoping to cheer yourself up.

The loss of the experiments and the crappiness of the zoo itself speak to me further, as some of my favorite things are made to be awful. This is one of those stories that almost feels like it was written for me personally. 4.5 out of 5 animals are more adaptable than they expect.

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