Abandon all hope ye who enter here my imagined tag line for this bookThis is the eview I ve been dreading most because I wanted so badly to like it and just couldn t connect with it at all It s a collection of bizarre short fiction mostly incorporating some kind of A London Home in the 1890s romance andor alien contact With a title like Alien Virus Love Disaster I was expecting something weird yes but also something funny Like the Stephanie Plum of alien books And it was just dark depressing despairing There isn t a single shred of hope in the whole darn book Not one tiny story I gave it two stars instead of one because on the upside the stories are uniue and inclusive I can honestly say I ve neveread anything like them and I can see how they would be The Geology And Landscape Of Santa Barbara County, California, And Its Offshore Islands right for someone just not me I wanted to laugh I wanted to be uplifted and instead I ended up d Philip Roth would sometimes uote Chekhov s observation that the job of the artist is the proper presentation of the problem If that s indeed the case then Abbey Mei Otis s highly artistic debut collection which gathers a dozen dazzling tales tells me we have uite the problem on our hands The majority of these stories eight previously published four original to this volumeevolve around dystopic or depressed futures wherein Biopower: Foucault and Beyond rampant angst alienation decadence and physical suffering seem like the only logical outgrowths I use that word deliberately as Otis has a particular knack for details that anchor her characters in their physical predicaments In the collection s eponymous tale for instance one of my favorites the inhabitants of a small town in the aftermath of an accident involving alien technology in a nearby lab develop bumps on their bodies and must be evacuated These protuberances which feel hard andound like everybody s got ping pong balls buried inside them are bad enough but there s an almost throwaway line early on that well illustrates Otis s attention to physicality He digs at the sole of his bare foot peels off a big nugget of callus and flicks it onto the Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds rug The Moonkids of the next storyejects from a lunar colony who are outcast to Earth at the age of sixteen if they fail to achieve specific test scores experience immense discomfort in our higher gravity and must undergo difficult procedures Your muscles learn differently in moon gravity Your bones form light like a bird s Used to not even be possible to make the transition you d touch down into earthpull and collapse like fast melting candles Too many fractures for all the king s horses and all the king s men Way way too many for Earth doctors to deal with Earth doctors are known for not giving a shit Now though they ve got ways around it They ve got operations and stuff Every moonkid s got incision scars in the same places Despite these treatments though Earthpull is fickle like a trickster gnome Sometimes even after months and months it sneaks up behind you and punches in your knees The name of the game thematically speaking is not so much adapting as survivingAnatomy is even Abbey Mei Otis’s short stories are contemporary fiction at its strongest taking apart the supposed euality that is clearly just not there putting humans under an alien microscope putting humans under government control.
Oregrounded in the third story If You Could Be God of Anything in which a bunch of kids discover a sex Is That Even a Country, Sir! robot that has literally fallen from the sky one of countless discarded objects from the skyways air traffic In the fifth Blood Blood uasi disembodied aliens derive observational pleasure from humans performing mundane activities but they seem to become especially aroused by fighting The sixteen year old narrator who engages in these tussles longs to escape her life and body Guilt she tells herself is just another trapping of the flesh Again the body becomes a world now made alien by a kind of ultra sensitive latex encasing in Sex Dungeons for Sad PeopleAs this first batch of storieseadily makes clear the problematic worlds in which Otis s characters find themselves are not only globally insoluble but often than not personally untenable This doesn t always lead to tragedy sometimes the possibility of transformation is enough to sustain hope In other instances such as Teacher or Sweetheart a うそつきリリィ 3 [Usotsuki Lily 3] retreat into surrealism seems like the only appropriateesponse In yet others such as Rich People the successful incursion into a different ealm of class or status only opens up even nauseating vistasReaders who enjoy traditional narratives may struggle with Otis s work which celebrates voice above all else Though there are plenty of science fictional and fantastic elements here ising sea levels moon colonies gene modifications A Bold Carnivore: An Alphabet of Predators robots virtualealities even ghosts of a sort they typically comprise the background Goodbye Sarajevo: A True Story of Courage, Love and Survival rather than the foundation of the stories at hand Otis displays enormous skill in first person narration and sheelies on it almost exclusively trapping us in an array of colorful subjectivities Her characters freuently youthful tend to speak in a highly idiosyncratic mordant collouial way Otis s deliberate cadences and Lifting repetitions in sentence structuresesult in a kind of hypnotic poetics of the mundane Privations physical mental spiritual are a constant focus in these stories and those elements are immediately accessible but their contexts often Mathruhridayam remain obliue Consider for example this nugget of description about the aliens in Blood Blood They speak orather do not speak in streams of thought directed toward our minds Look at one straight it s like the sunlight that plays on the hull of a boat in a lake Only no boat no lake no sunlightIf You Lived Here You d Be Evicted by Now and Ultimate Housekeeping Megathrill 4 the volume s two closing stories are longer than most preceding pieces and in some ways stronger There s oom to explore the crevasses of Otis s thoughtfully constructed worlds and time to engage with the characters plights There s also the opportunity for some truly amazing stylistic flourishes such as the following which occurs three paragraphs into the penultimate storyLet s say there s no money in this world Let s say if you want to obtain something like ice or photocopies you have to give somebody a handjob Only nobody wants to give a handjob in the gr. Putting kids from the moon into a small beach town and then the putting the A Life In School: What The Teacher Learned rest of the town under the microscope as theyeact in ways we hope they would and then of course in ways we’d hope they don’tOtis has long.
Ocery store or the copy shop so instead at each egister in a clear glass tank they have one of those giant clams from the Pacific Northwest which is a symbol for genitalia In lieu of payment you dip your hand into the cold salt water and caress the clam once twiceJust kidding of course there s money Casey and Stacy both work in financeIf you get the sense that Otis s stories may provoke strong emotions in you and disturb you you e probably The House That Had Enough right But I don t believe Otis s focus is on being transgressive per seather on illustrating how for many transgression has already become a cornerstone of everyday The Devil's Snake Curve: A Fan's Notes From Left Field reality Otis doesn t use science fiction to lift the veil of the familiar and peer at what s beneath Instead with great shrewdness and courage and originality sheeveals that the veil was itself an illusion and the familiar a construct of anything but This is a hard book to The March Up: Taking Baghdad with the 1st Marine Division read and even harder toate I had to tally my individual Pimpinella Meerprinzessin 1: Ankunft im Muschelschloss (German Edition) rating for each and came up with 25 stars Gosh darn it if it s 24 or 26 it would be easier I give three for now just because it is still better than most two star books Iead Why the extra 05 star It brought no kicked me out of my comfort zone It has some powerful scenes intriguing conversations This is my first encounter with the author s work and she sure is memorable She knows how to knit all the traditional SF story elements from aliens genetic modification dystopia Das kurze Leben der Sophie Scholl rising sea water and ground them to the level of individual families and communities Most stories also have strong voices All happen to be female in all kinds of ages Now the downside The stories are super bleak set near futurish decaying world and told in a hopelessly devastating manner The book is not something to pick upandomly and Défendre Jacob reuire a suitable mind condition mine is pretty stressed out at the moment thus it got heavier Also I admit I did not fully comprehend all stories Yet I feel the draw ofereading them Some I did Darfur's Sorrow: A History of Destruction and Genocide reread because they are shorter and I ended up liking them I hope I could find a time when I could in a better state of mind peel the layers slowly and immerse myself Unfortunately this is not the time Oh thank goodness a collection of actual short stories with plots and characters and all that good stuff Iemember from way way back Not only that but Otis does it with pizzazz wrenching the good old humanist SF short story out of the familiar nineteen sixties tropes settings and style straight into the new millennium the feeling is still there but it all feels fresh it fee Another of the PKD nominees this one is a collection of short stories set in the nearish future Not eally any sort of future I want to see though It s a grungy bleak tainted place filled with beaten down people discarded by societyWell written yes some of it is uite good A few of those images will stick with me for a while I do like to think that humans will always love always fight to survive I d just ather not see them doing it with their heads down hunched over getting kicked. Been fascinated in using strange situations to explore dynamics of power oppression and grief and the twelve stories collected here are at once a striking indictment of the present and a powerful warning about the futur.
Abbey Mei Otis is an American writer born in 1989 She is currently astudent in the creative writing program at Oberlin College as well asa graduate of Clarion West 2010 Her work has previously appeared inStrange Horizons and The Susuehanna Review