Illuminations reviewed

Astute RSS readers will have noticed that Illuminations has been reviewed by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro at The Fix (disclaimer: I also review for The Fix). I think it’s a very fair and perceptive review overall, and as a contributing writer I’m particularly pleased that he devoted time and effort to every story in the anthology. There’s that link again!

I’m being quite careful with this post since, as a book reviewer, I’m well aware that in most circumstances it’s poor form to respond to one’s critics. That aside – and let me note that I think all of Zinos-Amaro’s criticisms and observations of my stories demonstrate insight and even-handedness – I found it fascinating to find my work under this sort of critical microscope. It’s very different from the critiques received from a writing group, or feedback from friends. This is reviewage coming from someone with no prior awareness of me or my work, no prior expectations at all, and it shows in a way that is very helpful to me as a neophyte writer.

Here’s the section of Zinos-Amaro’s review that is me, all me:

Shaun C. Green was featured in nine stories:

The first-person protagonist of “I am Colony” has a strange experience in hyperspace which radically alters his existence, transporting his body and consciousness in an unexpected way. The premise is intriguing and the writing competent, but I found the scale of events too vast to be encompassed appropriately by this nugget-sized narrative.

When Mr. Curnow pleads with a Father for a special type of application, he encounters the insurmountable “Terminator” of bureaucratic regulations. Though the writing suffered from adverb-itis, I enjoyed the scene and the details used to convey characters and situation.

In “This Urban Aesthetic,” Raul steps through a portal into the past. Does he travel there merely to obtain a memento, or is there more going on? This unadulterated SF story contains pleasant, if not exactly shocking, observations on the relationship of humans with the past, and grounds them in an appropriate emotional context.

A man travelling across “nodes” in search of some raunchy sex is not prepared to “Slip It In.” Some of the descriptions were funny, though I’m not sure whether this was intentional. I didn’t think Green provided sufficient justification for the turn of events; considering that the narrator suggests he’s been here before, why is this the first time this happens?

Anyone burdened with the responsibilities of the viewers of “Vote Now!” ought to consider their choices carefully before casting their ballots. This piece worked perfectly for me. It offers a plausible speculation and articulates it succinctly, as well as having some fun with Space Opera settings. I feel comfortable in voting it the best of Green’s stories here.

How would one react if one experienced the “O Radiance, O Blessed Light” of an angel? This a captivating premise, but the seeming lack of emotional impact to the narrator after one key event made it difficult for me to entirely suspend my disbelief. Sweeping, biblical imagery was almost redemptive enough to save it.

The drunken Joseph of “Softly Softly Catchee Monkey” thinks he hears steps, not his own, as he stumbles home. Is someone after him? I would describe this piece as a moderate success. Though its SF staple is predictable, the suspense mostly works. Unfortunately, Joseph wasn’t a character I found myself caring for, and so in a sense, I was grateful for the monkey-business ending.

The “Grey Matter” of this story’s protagonist may contain more than he lets on through his slangish diction. “Micro chipses” in the head is a familiar SF conceit, but I enjoyed the way Green focuses here on the classism and psychological dimension of the experience, rather than the technological details. The slang may make this one a bit hard on some readers, but reading it aloud will save your grey matter some unnecessary struggle.

The search for “Satisfaction” by the travelers between parallel realities in this tale brought to my mind an anti-Voltairean notion; rather than believe in the locution of Leibnizian optimism that “Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possible,” as Candide’s Dr. Pangloss did, they maintain that their search is meaningful precisely because a world better than ours exists somewhere in the infinitude of worlds. The reverse mechanism of the story, as observed by the protagonist, whereby one tends to find a world particularly ill-suited to one’s needs or dispositions, seems little more than an arbitrary narrative construct for confirming his own beliefs. I personally don’t object to the belief that a search may provide its own meaning, but I found that the message overburdened this tale.

If you missed the comments thread over the weekend, have another look at F3: Turning Point: Justin and Gareth have continued from where I left off. (Is it possible for a writer to imitate himself?) Unfortunately I’ve also been challenged to wrap it up… maybe for this week’s F3!

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