Thursday, May 13, 2010

I Needs Must Part, The Policeman Said

Novelette by Richard Bowes

Richard Bowes is admitted to the hospital, goes into surgery, and take a long time to recover. Between the fever dreams, the anesthesia, and a touch of either craziness or influence from ... spirits?... that oversee the boundary between life and death, he begins to change.

This is a horror story at heart, primarily about the fear that when you go to sleep, you might wake up as a different person. There is uncertainty about what is real and what is not and the maybe-real alternate reality is pretty interesting. But overall it is a somewhat boring story, which it really shouldn't be, given what happens. And the invocation of Philip K. Dick with the title sets expectations a little higher for me. The title fits, but it seems like parts of the story designed only to justify the title.

The author-as-narrator device doesn't really add anything much to this story in the way of metafiction, but it doesn't hurt either. I honestly forgot that the narrator was supposed to be the author until I reread the story. No harm, no foul, but this is no Ghosts Doing the Orange Dance.

Still, it is very much about the author's own experiences with being ill, and expresses the emotions he felt pretty well. In some ways similar to Vinegar Peace, but with a meaningful, coherent narrative. I do think the dilemma Bowes faces about whether or not to take the cop up on his offer would have been a lot more meaningful if we actually had any clue why it should matter. Given what we know from the story I'd have trouble caring one way or another, were I in his place. Which is how I feel about just a bit too much of this novelette.

3 ghost cops out of 5.

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