Strange Horizions, 13 June 2005

Note: This post was imported from an old content-management system, so please excuse any inconsistencies in formatting.

"The Disappearance of James H__" by Hal Duncan

“The Disappearance of James H__” by Hal Duncan is not an easy story.  The structure is disjointed, the story sexualizes a beloved children’s tale, and it’s short, but it works.  

Duncan offers tantalizing hints to James’ identity and anyone with any familiarity with the source material will pick it up, but Duncan gives the reader more sympathy for James than he was accorded in the original.  

The story reads more like poetry than prose, with gorgeous yet tight imagery.  The reader is asked to follow the hints and connect the dots until the very last.  James love turns to hatred and we understand why he becomes the bitter, villainous character we are familiar with.   At that point the revelation almost feels like too much, yet at the same time, it couldn’t be less.  

This story is guaranteed to make the reader rethink James H__’s motivations and it certainly packs a punch.  I liked “The Disappearance of James H__” but I wanted more narrative to support the heft of the ending.