"One Long Hot Summer"
"Mr. Heisenburg’s Principles"
"No Fear of the Sun at All"
"Blind Man in a Cup"
"Cell F is the World"
"The Man Outside"
"Not to Come to Not"
"The Lost and Found"
"In a Fit of Pique"
"X and Y"
Heidi Cyr‘s collection of strange and offbeat speculative fiction, X and Y and Other Like Stories, has several good stories told with an original voice, but for the most part, the remaining tales felt empty, distant, and inhabited only by nameless characters. The X and Y are fine, but maybe a little less I.
The collection opens with the peculiar "You Can Buy the Girl," a story of love, relationships, and two best friends. Mike and Brooks often take strolls in the city with hopes of picking up classy women as opposed to floozies, but when Mike suggests that Brooks dresses like a woman to increase their chance of scoring, their feelings for one another gradually change. The speculative aspect is slight, but there. A quick, but entertaining read. [Editor’s note: "You Can Buy the Girl" was originally published in issue #2 (Jan. 1999) of Indigenous Fiction.]
"Little Blue Lovely" is about an alien’s journey to Earth and the lessons he/she/it learns there about humanity, life, and death. Unfortunately, Cyr’s writing is too stiff and awkward here, often leading to many paragraphs needing to be reread. In the end, the plot and point of "Little Blue Lovely" becomes drowned in heavy doses of poetic wax that confused more than it consoled.
The eerie mood in "One Long Hot Summer" was its strongest feature. A stranger wanders into town, taking interest in our nameless female narrator. Since his arrival, summer continues on into the winter season, and bodies begin to disappear from houses. Our narrator notices the coincidences, but proclaims she is not afraid. Should she be? The soft, quiet revelations of the characters are done poignantly, making this worth the read.
"Mr. Heisenburg’s Principles" is good old time-traveling fun. Bill Evans has created a time machine that acts as a traveling movie theater, allowing its riders to watch but not interact with the past. He welcomes his friends Robert and Evelyn to experience the machine, but one of them will put events into motion that none of them could have predicted. Cyr does not focus heavily on the scientific aspect of traveling backwards, which was a relief to me, allowing philosophical questions and inner turmoil to fuel the characters’ actions.
In "Davey Machine," our nameless, non-gendered protagonist aims to get more out of her robotic housekeeper, Davey. Preprogrammed, computerized love, you say? But as our protagonist begins to understand more of who (and what) Davey is, problems start to pop up. A devilishly fun story that builds to a predictable, but satisfying ending.
"No Fear of the Sun at All" takes place in a world where the sun is too strong, often literally burning the skin off people. Karen and her lover, Robin, are just two people trying to survive as best as they can in this harsh domain. While others are leaving for the countryside—where the sun isn’t as powerful—Karen remains behind with hopes that things will change for the better. Karen is a captivating woman who strives to better the lives around her, genuinely and without compromise.
Drug dealers, doctors, and death tell the story of "Peter Prosser," a "master of self-promotion" in which our nameless narrator recalls the demise of her closest friends. Told in a combination of flashbacks and daydream sequences, this piece of neurotic horror was quite enjoyable.
"And Gaby" is a dark piece of flash, well written, but lacking a point.
"Blind Man in a Cup" held my attention in the beginning, opening with a bar scene, but by the end I wasn’t certain it was worth the effort. Nameless narrator and a group of friends take interest when a blind man enters said bar and takes a seat in the corner across from a woman so stoned she’s described as a statue. From there, it’s just a lot of gossip about whether the blind man knows she is there or not, and some talk of special drinks which made little to no sense. Not the best of this collection.
"Cell F is the World" is the single piece of poetry slipped in.
Mandy and a group of friends visit Sean’s cabin unannounced in "The Man Outside," which leads to unexplainable trouble. Something is moving about in the woods, and only Mandy can see what destruction it is up to. This is a haunting tale that does a subtle job of setting a dark mood and offering a simple yet fulfilling plot. Recommended.
"Not to Come to Not" involves another nameless narrator, her brother Quint, and the mysterious man named Cavalry who stumbles upon the siblings in their home in the mountains. At first, all the man can say is, "Whose side are you on?" evoking a sense of strangeness and foreboding. By the end of it, the reader learns what sides there are to be on and what consequences exist for those sides. Fast-paced, "Not to Come to Not" is a gripping read that’ll entertain all the way to the end.
A boy is abandoned to grow up among the trees of the forest and a young girl becomes lost in "The Lost and Found," a strange view into seclusion, language, and friendship. Cyr’s writing is strong here, offering beautiful descriptions and perceptive observations on the subtleties of nature. The ending, for all its cheeriness, sealed the deal, making "The Lost and Found" more than I first thought it to be.
"In a Fit of Pique" is a story of questions. It opens with our once again nameless narrator alone on a backwater planet in an undiscovered galaxy. He/she/it ponders how much longer until death comes, what these sand creatures appearing out of nowhere really are, and if anyone else lives on the planet. I was lost in too much philosophical jargon to truly appreciate its point.
In "X and Y," Andre wants to clone Eva, who has both X and Y chromosomes, to correct the defect on the X one in hopes of turning her clone male. The experiment is successful, and ten years later, after further harsh developments, Eva meets her clone, Andy, for the first time. Now, finally able to connect with someone who exists only because of her, Eva must take hold of her emotions and continue with the project’s research. This is the best entry in the collection—thoughtful, morally questioning, and filled with strong, heartfelt characters.
"Jesus Savant" reminded me of all the reasons I dislike modern art. It strays from the norm, trying too hard to be unique in its own way, but through all its rebellion, it just becomes too hard to understand. I was hoping for a better ending to X and Y and Other Like Stories, but was left with this short piece of religious exploration.
Publisher: RedJack (September 2005)
Paperback: 180 pages
Paperback: 180 pages