Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

‘Cleopatra Brimstone’ by Elizabeth Hand

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Redshift opened with a novella but this is the first one since. The extra space gives Hand a chance to go into more detail than most of the other stories here but this proves to be a mixed blessing. For every sharp observation there is one that lapses into purple prose. On the first page she describes butterflies on a child’s mobile as being “no longer eidolons of Eden” and there is quite a bit of this sort of thing.

In a familar manner the story quickly sketches the first two decades of the protagonist’s life before a trauma transformations her life and brings us to the main body of the story. Janie has been obsessed by butterflies all her life and goes on to study them at university. In her final year she is raped and in an attempt to regain control of her life moves from the US to London to housesit for rich family friends. Just as the prose splits between the acute and the purple so Hand’s depiction of London alternates between that which resonates and that which reminds you of Dick Van Dyke. There is a general credibility problem here. Okay, it is about a woman who discovers she is able to turn men into butterflies by tossing them off but even the non-fabulicious parts are unconvincing: I don’t believe Janie’s transformation from introvert to club chick, I don’t believe much of the world she inhabits and I certainly don’t believe in the oversized secondary characters she interacts with.

Obviously this is a fantasy story so no points for pushing the boundaries of science fiction.

Quality: ***
Shiftiness: *

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Written by Martin

20 May 2009 at 10:22

Posted in sf, short stories

Tagged with ,

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