Full Unit Hookup, #2, Summer 2002

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"The Historical Tradgedie of Julia and Remirro" by Jim C. Hines
"The 'Z' Effect" by Trent M. Walters
"The Big Guy" by Derek Paterson
"Win a Day With Mikhail Gorbachev! (A Melodrama in Four Parts)" by Tim Jones

Full Unit Hookup is another quirkily titled small press publication rather in the mold of contemporaries such as Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet and Electric Velocipede. The second issue is modestly but nicely produced, and manages to fit a lot of material into its thirty-eight pages, including poetry, creative non-fiction, and the four stories considered here.

The issue opens with "The Historical Tradgedie of Julia and Remirro" by Jim C. Hines. This one takes some getting into, but after a slightly awkward opening the story develops an effective narrative rhythm. It takes place in long-ago England, involving a wine merchant named Geoffrey whose leprosy robs him of his love and, in a sense, his life– that is to say, he is declared legally dead even as he is still alive "in the eyes of God," banished from London to a leprosarium. There, his struggles to cope with a hopeless plight take a unique form. Hines handles his time-jumping story structure admirably, and works a nice twist into his tragic plot. Generally, period stories of this sort aren't exactly my cup of tea, but overall I found this one nicely done.

Trent M. Walters personifies the growing rift between a troubled couple in the next story, "The 'Z' Effect." This intriguing slipstream offering suffers a bit from prose that occasionally feels unnecessarily complicated. But overall I found it an effective exploration of a cool premise, that doesn't overstay its welcome and ultimately arrives at a rather satisfying closure.

"The Big Guy" by Derek Paterson serves as a coda to the famous story of King Kong. Considerably more accessible than the stories that come before, it also feels less ambitious. Though the prose is well enough written, the story–which looks at unexamined after-effects of the Kong story from the point of view of Ann Darrow–doesn't succeed fully as a self-contained work, relying too heavily on its source material.

The most entertaining story in the issue, for me, was "Win a Day With Mikhail Gorbachev! (A Melodrama in Four Parts)" by Tim Jones. Taking place in Russia in the mid-eighties, the story whips along amusingly as it quickly becomes apparent that there is something extraordinary afoot in this alternate world. The plot isn't exactly satisfying–rather, it feels more like an accumulation of fun scenes–but the writing is smart and humorous.

In sum, while I didn't find anything truly outstanding in this issue, Full Unit Hookup comes across as an earnest, worthwhile project, a well produced showcase for interesting new voices and unusual fiction.

Christopher East is a frequent contributor to Tangent Online, whose fiction has appeared in a number of pro and semi-pro genre magazines. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa.