Strange Horizons, September 7, 2015
Reviewed by Joshua Berlow
“Glaciers Made You” by Gabby Reed is a weird-body horror story. It revolves around one memorable image—a girl who, when peeling off her sunburned skin, sees tiny freckle-tinged words written in the pieces of her skin. This skin peeling is innocuous at first, but eventually becomes much less so. Although the story kept my attention and is a worthy read, it doesn’t really convey a positive message. Self-harm is an actual problem, and one has to ask if it’s a good thing to encourage the practice by portraying an otherwise likable protagonist flaying herself.
The story is told in a poetic, languid way. In our media-saturated world of graphic gore (think zombies and serial killers) it’s not a wonder to see a story featuring self-flaying. I shouldn’t focus exclusively on the self-flaying, as the story has other admirable elements. The conflation of the wild elk with the protagonist’s deceased father was captivating, as was the fact that the words on the girl’s skin were names of places that could be plotted on a map. These place names become significant because the protagonist borrows the family van and goes to them in search of her deceased father. The title “Glaciers Made You” likely refers to her deceased father, although this is never explicitly stated. Not explicitly explaining everything to the reader is skillfully handled and heightens interest.
Regardless of my queasiness over the depiction of self-harm, the central image is strong enough, and the overall story-telling accomplished enough that “Glaciers Made You” ultimately conveys a memorably wistful and haunting mood.
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