Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Harrowers

Novelette by Eric Gregory

A wilderness guide in post-apocalyptic North Carolina is hired to help a man track down his father: a Southern preacher who decided his calling was to go out and minister to the zombies. The preacher himself is a fun old man when they find him, and he does have quite a way with the dead. He's easily my favorite character in the story, although it's really much more about the guide himself, by the end anyway.

This is a somewhat light-hearted western / zombie apocalypse / action story, fairly pulpy, but it's very good at what it does. The characters are motivated by greed, by debt, by faith, or by just wanting to survive another day, not by heroism or a sense of adventure. There is a particularly modern focus on debt and how the crime lord uses economics to keep the town under his control and manipulate other criminals and those on the fringe of legality. Safety from zombies is definitely a trade-off in a corrupt frontier town, one most people have to take.

I like the exceptionally human, often criminal, motivations of most of the characters. Even the off-screen crimelord and the woman who drives the truck seem more motivated, more real, and less generic types than they might in other stories. The kid, the guide, and the father are all much more interesting, especially in their conflicting desires to run away from or embrace what passes for civilization in this world. And a fine apocalypse it is, too. I leave you with one image: bio-engineered cyborg zombie bears!

4 cyborg zombie bears out of 5.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Girls Gone Insane

Short Story by John Jasper Owens
Read for Pseudopod by George Hrab

An excellent narration to a well-paced revenge fantasy. The slow reveal of backstory is masterful. And the protagonist's feeling of guilt is very well done. But otherwise, there isn't much here. Girls who have been drugged and taken advantage of, then filmed for pornographic videos, are finally able to take their revenge on the man who drugged them. It's somewhat a commentary on how their lives are ruined more by ostracism and societal pressure than merely the one event, but the bulk of the story is just guilt and revenge and more guilt. Most of the characters have very little agency.

3 girls with low self esteem out of 5.

A Small Matter, Really

Short Story by Monte Cook
A May 2011 Escape Pod Original

I'll keep this very short, because I don't want to take time on detail.
Lots of really cool ideas and a good setup. Possibly too many good ideas, including:
  • The Catholic Church of Osirus and their time travel plot
  • Aliens who think humans are gods
  • A grieving woman who will change time itself to bring back her husband
  • Time Hackers

Extremely disappointing conclusion, featuring:
  • a joke reference to the title
  • a random POV switch
  • an unjust comeuppance caused by totally random chance but written as if it were deserved
  • faux tragedy that doesn't make sense within the logic already established by the story
  • Any of the cooler plot elements introduced at the beginning
More with the church, less with the unearned Be Careful What You Wish For tragedy!
2 time hackers out of 5.