The ED SF Project

The Ellen Datlow/SCI FICTION Project, that is. We're showing the love for five and a half years of great short fiction, and we need your help! We've got over 300 stories to cover, so if you're a person who loves short speculative fiction, we want you. Go here to read the list and add your voice.

Friday, November 18, 2005

"Anyway" by Mary Rickert: An Appreciation by Rick Bowes

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to read the manuscript of an amazing Mary Rickert novel. I didn't think the book was a word too long, in fact I wouldn't have minded at all if it had been longer. The cast of characters was large - it seemed to encompass most of the population of an upstate New York town - and the tightly wound plot spiraled hypnotically in ever-wider and wilder circles before it snapped shut.

"Anyway" has an entirely different tone. The words have a different rhythm. And this is a story of less than seven thousand words. But at the end, the trap again snaps and the shock is profound.

This short story has remarkable scope. It deals with Alzheimer's and young people bound for combat, with salvation and magic and the tangled love and anger of a family. The characters are rounded and multi-faceted. A man whose over-fond reminiscences of war lead his grandson to enlist in the marines has himself never been able to recover from the brutal murder of his son. The young recruit is a bright and sensitive kid.

The old man's daughter, the marine's mother is our narrator. At story's start she is in the midst of a mundane life, visiting her mother in a nursing home, musing on the paradox of being a vegetarian who has to buy pot roast for a birthday dinner. By story's end and without a false step on the author's part the narrator has become a terrifying figure with a human life and all of human life in her hands.

Mary Rickert is a remarkable new writer. This story will be among the wonders in her first book, the fiction collection Map of Dreams, due from Golden Gryphon in October 2006.

Link to story.


Blogger Jan A. said...

"Anyway" is my introduction to Mary Rickert. Now I want to read the whole collection of stories. SPOILER ALERT. The unreliability of the narrator is established when she puts a one of the stones in her mother's mouth only to become aware that attendents are stopping her from filling her mother's mouth with the stones. The vision cycle that each stone gives her, but only after the incident at the nursing home, are either real (i.e., the story is a fantasy) or the creation of a mind that has been growing insane since the story began. Is the mysterious stranger a vision of her murdered brother or his ghost? Is this a story of early onset A's disease or of a line of visionary women? The story works because it reads both ways, evenly. Even if the narrator is insane, she grasps thoroughly well a timeless truth: that the sacrifice of one's son is war is more insane.

10:35 AM  

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