*** Ashland, Kentucky
A mother’s dying wish: to see her long-lost brother again, just once before she dies. Her son attempts to track him down, but ‘Uncle Jack’ hasn’t been seen or heard from in decades. Then, something weird happens…
A quietly eerie story, slightly Bradbury-esque, about how the past’s loose ends can haunt us.
*** Barking Dogs
In the near future (ok, it’s 1996, and Phil Donahue is still on the air, but I can hang with that) a lie detector has been perfected, and made available for consumer use. The latest buyer of the new and popular item is a city cop. (Of course, there’s no money in the budget for such things to be made part of the police department’s official equipage.) How he uses the device, and the repercussions are a thoughtful exploration of truth, honesty – and how much we really want to know.
Even though some of the details are dated, the core of the story is very timely.
I see online that this story was later expanded into a rather poorly-reviewed novel. I haven’t read it, but I’m not sure this would work as a novel, although I think it’s a very good short story. It’s more of an idea-piece than a character-oriented story.
A man goes to visit his father in an institution. Is it a prison? A hospital? Or something else altogether? He must ask him a certain question…
The near-future setting is the jumping-off point to highlight the peculiarity of the ties of blood and loyalty, forged of both love and hatred.
** The Woman Who Is the Midnight Wind
Widowed on a colony world, a woman comes to make a decision which those around her find baffling and incomprehensible. There’s some nice stuff here about isolation and what it means to be human… but I have to deduct a star, because the attempt at a ‘woman’s’ point of view is awkward to the point of absurdity – and the ‘female’ theme is a major part of the piece.
*** Room 1786
Probably more timely now than it was when it was written. A teacher’s lament regarding how technology is changing the school experience.
** Japanese Tea
This one, I found a bit reminiscent of Philip K. Dick. A teacher in a high-security future school is pursuing an affair with a willing student. A new drug gets brought into the mix, and things get weird.
** Susie Q2
A lonely man is contemplating suicide. But first, he has to say farewell to the personalities he’s programmed into his A.I.
*** Till Death Do Us Part
An ex-wife makes sure that her first husband gets his come-uppance – from beyond the grave, thanks to new technology.
** Point Zero
Joe Nicholson travels a lot for work, and doesn’t really have a lot going on in his life. His main pleasure is visiting strip clubs in whatever town he happens to be in, where he regards the entertainers with an odd mix of bemusement and awe. But then, a strange truth is revealed, and Joe is offered a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity. But will he decide to go for it?
I felt this story was rather weak; it depends on an ‘othering’ of strippers that I found very bizarre and out-of-touch.
**** Of Children in the Foliage
Inspired by a T.S. Eliot quote – which I suppose makes it unsurprising that this was my favorite story in the collection. A couple moves to an inhabited world, where humans and the native aliens coexist peacefully, and strive to overcome cultural and inherent differences to understand each other. A quiet, but lovely story.
I picked this book up because of the blurb which described Green as “one of Canada’s finest writers.” I’ve had good experiences with quite a few Canadian authors, so thought I’d check out an author I wasn’t familiar with. Many thanks to Open Road Media and NetGalley for the opportunity to familiarize myself with his work. As always, my opinions are solely my own.