Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Behold of the Eye

Novelette by Hal Duncan
Read for PodCastle by MarBelle
Originally published in Lone Star Stories, free online

Flashjack is a fairy, and like all fairies, lives inside the magical part of the eye/brain that holds onto significant memories. Through his eyes, we see a young, gay kid grow up, from infancy to being picked on at school, to more traumatic events later in life. Young Toby starts out as a happily imaginative, bookish nerd but his life takes some turns for the worse, and behind the melodrama of general teenage angst, we get a poignant depiction of suicidal depression and self-loathing in a vivid fantasy whose telling grows increasingly darker, angrier, and sadder.

It is a brilliant concept, wording, and story that evokes some very raw emotions, but the 1700 word epilogue kills a bit of my enjoyment. Not that coming-to-terms-with-one's-sexuality wasn't a minor theme of the story anyway, but it really could have been left as a loose end. The epilogue ends with a mostly but not entirely happy resolution, which is far less moving than it would have been if Duncan had just ended it earlier. Especially since an entirely new (undeveloped) character was added to help resolve this.

The real climax of the story, and to me, the real point of the story, was Toby's depression, self-loathing, and inability to see anything worth living for. The climax wraps this primary thread up in an extremely poignant fashion. It makes a lot of sense, is exceptionally relatable, and ties up the whole theme of the story. A "semi-happily ever after" wouldn't have added anything on the end, but I could see it being okay. But instead we have another short story worth of epilogue dealing with a whole different issue that was at best a root-cause and sub-theme of the earlier story. A tad more of the world is built up here, but I honestly wasn't looking for that, and I don't know that the questions left after the real ending are anything but weaker versions of the questions that would have been left with the pre-epilogue ending.

Still the last part isn't awful, it just drags things out to expand on and tie up threads better left untied. But the majority of the story is great, focused, and just plain neat to read for something so emotional.
4.5 monstrous teddy bears out of 5.

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