SCI FICTION, February 02, 2005

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"Matricide" by Lucy Sussex

Image"Matricide," a short story by Lucy Sussex opens, ostensibly, in the afterlife, which appears to Sylvie Lester as an international airport terminal.  As Sylvie speculates whether this constitutes, if not Hell, then certainly Purgatory, she is confronted by faces from her past–including her own–among the morass of travelers waiting for their connecting flights. 

Sussex takes the reader on a leapfrogging journey through Sylvie's life touching upon issues of love, pregnancy, sickness, and impending death, all wrapped together in an untidy, existential shell.  There's even a guest appearance by Stephen King.  This present tense immersion into Sylvie's memories revolves around a single symbol (even the Stephen King cameo)–to whit a wax doll, grotesque and singularly bizarre.  The tangle of symbolism mired in that ugly doll would have warmed Freud's heart, were he still alive.  Then again, maybe he's waiting for a connecting flight to Tortugas. 

I'm not a great fan of present tense.  I don't think it should be relegated to the Too-Large-for-Carry-On limbo of writing luggage, but it should be used cautiously. While I suspect Sussex sought to inspire a sense of immediacy, "Matricide" felt disjointed instead of urgent, fragmented instead of direct.  While the characters were richly dimensional and interesting, in the end, "Matricide" failed to resonate with this reader.