Strange Horizons, May 16, 2016
Reviewed by Dave Truesdale
The Century of the title refers to a car left in the parking lot near the little local waterfall and pond where the protagonist’s brother never returned after jumping into the pond several years ago. No trace of him was ever found. The car has been left there by her mother in hopes her brother might someday return. This short story is told through the sister’s eyes, as she and two of her high school friends visit the enigmatic pond and defy the odds—and the pond’s dark reputation—by jumping from the waterfall into the pond, hopefully to survive and not be taken by the pool, where numerous others have vanished over time.
No one knows why some people never return from a dive into the pond and others do. Superstitious reasons—a list of supposed pond rules—have been created to account for this, among them that the pond doesn’t like those who dive into it, therefore to jump is the safer method. This piece is more a meditation on why we do certain things we are told not to do (breaking the rules) and some of the reasons our protagonist’s brother felt (written down before his disappearance) made breaking the rules worthwhile and worth the risk.
This explains why at the end of the story the protagonist “jacknifes” into the pool rather than jumps. What she specifically discovers constitutes a spoiler which I shan’t reveal, but the general theme, or point of the story—of rebelling and breaking the rules—while valid up to a point (but not always), is not new.
Dave Truesdale has edited Tangent and now Tangent Online since 1993. It has been nominated for the Hugo Award six times, and the World Fantasy Award once. A former editor of the Bulletin of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he also served as a World Fantasy Award judge in 1998, and for several years wrote an original online column for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Now retired, he keeps close company with his SF/F library, the coffeepot, and old movie channels on TV. He lives in Kansas City, MO.