Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Birthday Review: Short Fiction of Daryl Gregory

Daryl Gregory turns 54 today. I've been a big fan of his short fiction for a long time, though alas he writes much less of it now that he's primarily a novelist. Below I present a selection of my reviews of his shorter work for Locus. I should mention his current Hugo nominee for Best Novelette, "Nine Last Days on Planet Earth", which is an exceptional piece about a man's long life as Earth is radically changed by an alien invasion of sorts; and I should also mentione his remarkable 2017 novel Spoonbenders, a Nebula and World Fantasy Award nominee. I reviewed that on this blog here: Spoonbenders and other 2017 Novels.

Locus, July 2004

The other novelet in the July F&SF is Daryl Gregory's "The Continuing Adventures of Rocket Boy", in which a man named Tim returns to his home town to try to deal with the events that crippled him as a teenager – all revolving around his nerdy friend and a strange movie the two shot over several years. The other boy died while Tim was crippled by an accidental (?) explosion while shooting the movie. Upon return Tim again meets his friend's parents, and we quickly gather that Tim's friend's home life was not very good – how this affected the boys' relationship, their movie, and the climactic events slowly comes clear. It's a fine story that I felt somehow fell short of being first-rate – perhaps it is just a bit too long for its emotional content, perhaps its revelations are clear too soon so that the conclusion is a bit too flat.

Locus, October 2005

Daryl Gregory, in “Second Person, Present Tense” (Asimov's, September 2005), offers a fascinating look at the nature of our identity and consciousness. A teenaged girl overdoses on a new drug that temporarily disconnects the conscious self from decision-making (brain research suggests that the brain makes “decisions” to take actions prior to the conscious mind making the same decision). The overdose results ultimately in the formation of a new consciousness – a completely different personality in the same body with (eventually) the same memories. It’s fascinating stuff, well explored here via the girl and her parents and her doctor trying to deal with the new identity. (I was reminded a bit of Holly Phillips’s “The Other Grace” from earlier this year, which used amnesia to bring its main character to a similar place.)

Locus, April 2006

Best in the April F&SF is a solid Daryl Gregory outing, “Gardening at Night”. This concerns a project to clear landmines using a lot of fairly intelligent “mytes”: interconnected small robots. The problem is, the mytes, as with seemingly all “fairly intelligent robots” in SF history, seem to have their own ideas about what to do with their lives. It’s a thoughtful, interesting, well done story.

Locus, December 2006

The December F&SF also features another intriguing story from Daryl Gregory, “Damascus”, in which a divorced woman gets involved with a religious cult based around a kuru-like disease. The story asks, in a way, if religion is a disease – or, at any rate, can a disease mimic a religion? Gregory has been using SFnal ideas wonderfully, to ask deep questions.

Locus, October 2010

From Daryl Gregory we have become used to challenging stories about the frontiers of contemporary neurological research, so perhaps it is a bit of a surprise to see in “Unpossible” (F&SF, October-November) a fantasy about a man whose wife and son have committed suicide. He is trying to rediscover something he lost during childhood, and so he resurrects a bike that had special attachments with such markings as “unpossible”. This is a way to a fantastical universe populated by characters that will be familiar to most readers – and Gregory’s point turns nicely on that familiarity, and on how we perhaps forget too readily our love of those characters.

Eclipse Two Review (Locus, November 2008)

Finally a borderline case is also among the best stories here “The Illustrated Biography of Lord Grimm”, by Daryl Gregory, tells of an island ruled by Lord Grimm, who seems obsessed with opposing the United States’s superheroes. He has kidnapped another, and the inevitable result is war – again. Just as inevitably, it is ordinary people like the heroine, who works in a factory making robots to fight the superheroes, who face the brunt of the catastrophic results of war. The political overtones are obvious enough, and well expressed.

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