Thursday, February 3, 2011


Short Story by Stellan Thorne
Free from Strange Horizons

Greyling is an older detective who one day has to investigate an angel for a robbery. Angels walking around with big wings and perfect skin seem to be rather commonplace in this world. It initially strikes me as a noir-detective story inspired by Márquez's "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings." And frankly, that mode, which is maintained for the first 2/3 of the story or so is one I'm happier with than where this ends up.

But then, rather than just expanding on Greyling's barely-suppressed rage and despair issues following the pre-story death of his partner, we have the angel stalking him because it suspects he is suicidal, moreso because of him. The ending is nicely open, and the story is perfectly concise. I liked the description and especially Greyling's dark characterization. But I could have done without the informed existence of the Christian God (weird comment about an angel story, I know) and without the "you must be saved" tone of the last bit.

At least we don't know how things end, and can suspect that Greyling is still miserable, not magically saved. I'd have preferred a less hard-to-follow climax and not the sudden change in plot and tone toward the very end, but this was still a pretty good story. Perhaps a bit to opaque about the cause-and-effect of the whole incident though.

A bit of description that particularly stands out is the use of "nacreous" to describe the angel's wings. While it is perfect for the kind of lustrous rainbow-white he is getting at, at the same time, it seems like a darker word in this context because of the closeness to "necrosis". I initially read this wrong, and it has a nice extra layer there. Le mot juste.

3 out of 5 viewers think "Robbed by an Angel" would have been a better premise for a TV show.

Trivia: the title refers to a type of feather, but also means a type of gear, as I think is referenced several times in the story, from the description of a lighter to Greyling's place in the police system. A nice title.

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