Strange Horizons — December 10, 2018

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Strange Horizons, December 10, 2018

“How Pleasant the Red Bloom” by Lucy Harlow

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

This week’s story is brief, but extremely dense and difficult to read. “How Pleasant the Red Bloom” by Lucy Harlow takes the form of a message from a prisoner to a future inmate. Many parts of it are scratched out, and multiple additions made later. There are also sections resembling poetry.

The situation is vague. The prisoner is called a Cipher, and the unseen jailers are Diviners. The Cipher is subject to epileptic fits. In some manner, the Diviners make use of this malady. At first, the message takes a forced, optimistic tone, although it is easy to see that the prisoner is suffering badly. The revisions are more openly despairing, and no longer attempt to disguise the prisoner’s hatred for the cruel Diviners.

The author creates a disturbing mood with frightening images. Typographic tricks aptly convey the prisoner’s broken mental state, but at the expense of clarity.

Victoria Silverwolf got a temporary crown for a broken tooth last week.