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  1. Isis
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    Isis Senior Member

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    The fate of mice - Susan Palwick

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Isis, May 18, 2007.

    The Fate of Mice by Susan Palwick was one of those books I pulled off the shelf on a whim, and to my delight and surprise the prose pulled me back. In the first paragraph an intelligent mouse was arguing with the scientist who studied him and it was natural, human, exciting. I was hooked.

    The titular story of this collection has the technical qualifications of sci-fi but reads like fantasy, in the tradition of Bradbury; though Palwick's writng style is very different from Bradbury's, the emergence of the human and old-fashioned among technology is similar. An IQ-enhanced mouse begins to have memories that he shouldn't have -- memories from human stories that involve mice. The link of language to human story and belief feels new and interesting, despite many previous incarnations of the theme.

    "Gestella" is of a rare breed, the original werewolf story. It plays on the old dog year/human year idea - one human year is seven dog years. The writing is very natural, and it didn't strike me that the whole thing was written in second person until about halfway through.

    The natural style weaves in the important details as the story begins, and continues. Nowhere was the story bogged down in exposition or description; everything was integrated. Often this was the voices of the narrators. The small things they mentioned and how they mentioned them mattered, gave the story context, and kept the reader thinking and extrapolating further into the tale.

    The most impressive feat of this writing style was apparent in "Going after Bobo". The personal details of the narrators life (things that affect him on a deep level and the things that people don't like to talk about) are not told in exposition, even very carefully worked exposition. They are, instead, hinted at in passing detail and casual mentions; by the time any of these things come out in the open, the reader already knows. The truth is only a confirmation and a resolution of what had been running underneath the premise of the story the entire time.

    Other stories include a twisted fairy tale of a girl who was born with her heart on the outside, and a heartless killer who takes care of her; a world where everyone and everything is good (though there are conflict addicts, grown up in our crazy world, who cannot accept this fact); the revived dead with something to say about their fate.

    The final piece - "GI Jesus", a novella - has intriguing characters and kept me reading, but the prose and the ideas weren't filled with the same excitement as the other stories. It is no slower paced or much longer than "Going after Bobo", and the style of writing is similar. Though the story raised interesting questions about belief it didn't have a conclusion anywhere near as the strong as those of the other pieces in this collection. All had jolting revelations - or, at least, revelations that were gradual but definative - both through the story and at the end.

    I would suggest this book to anyone interested in speculative fiction, even if they are a bit wary about it. These stories take some of the best pieces from science fiction, fantasy, folklore, horror, and magical realism - making this an exciting introduction to the possibilities of these genres as well as a hope for devoted fans.
     

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