Strange Horizons, 26 September 2005

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“Severance Pay” by M. K. Hobson

In M. K. Hobson’s tale, Amis Blunt has been on the job for a long time. For too long. He’s burned-out, gone stale. One day, a new guy sits down at the table next to him, and Amis discovers that he’s been replaced as the Angel of Death.

This concept is one that fantasy readers will find quite familiar. The problem here is that Amis is not an angel but an ordinary mortal. He possesses no angelic powers of his own, and indeed he seems to have no particular qualifications for the position, while the new guy is that noble creature, a philosophy major. In consequence, we have little sympathy for Amis in his pending unemployment.

This vignette provides the reader a few moments of amusement, but Hobson has dragged out the telling in an attempt at creating suspense, which might have worked better if the title, “Severance Pay,” had not already given away the twist.