intense sensations

Paranoid encounter of the Twitter kind

Posted on: April 21, 2012

Today’s review is a little bit different. Yesterday I met Chris Stiebens on Twitter and he steered me towards his story Delimited Detention in Subtopian Magazine. I don’t normally do reviews on request because I find it too stressful but I’ve been wondering what to write about ever since I posted a review of Spankalicious. Chris caught me at the right moment, while my mind was still blank and my bottom still sore.

It’s always good to read science fiction with a blank mind because most good science fiction stories defy your preconceptions. If you begin one thinking you know what to expect, the chances are you will be proved wrong.

Delimited Detention is no exception. It did several unexpected things.

The first was to mention ham radio. The narrator has a colloquial, geeky, introverted tone of voice reminiscent of Howard Waldrop and Cory Doctorow. It fits the ham radio character perfectly, so this was a promising start.

But the next unexpected thing was a heavyweight reference to Tristan und Isolde via T.S. Eliot. In German. Without the umlaut.

I calculate at maximum a four year window before the sky over every major city is bladed to intolerability by police and Homeland Security drones—Od’ und leer das Meer! What will become of “free society” at that point?

This is not what you want when you’ve got a sore bottom because it makes you squirm uncomfortably in your chair. It should be Oed’ und leer das Meer! or Öd’ und leer das Meer! and probably in italics.

It wasn’t the only typographical error I noticed, but I don’t want to be petty. Some of the sentences are quite tough to read and need all the typographical help they can get; but you can tell from the Wagner/Eliot reference and the hint of paranoia there that this is an ambitious story with a serious theme. The paranoia deepens and the theme darkens as the story goes on.

But I won’t spoil it for you. I’ll let you discover it for yourself.

I’ll just say that it has a wry, knotty, poetic intensity that makes it worth reading more than once, even after you know the ending.

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