It’s probably a story which is divides readers depending on their taste for the style, but it was my kind of thing. Stylish, cool and with a surprising upward lurch of emotion at the end.
There is an overpowering whiff of girl cooties to the story. Arkadi has fled his relationship for space and it turns out space is no place for girls. “You can’t blame me for that. There are basic biological incompatibilities between female neurochemistry and the guests.” This, as Valentina points out, is very convenient. She does get her shots in but she on the whole she is portrayed as desperate, pathetic and unable to define herself except against Arkadi. The final section of story is a race to see just how much she will debase herself to try and win him back: “Take me with you. I don’t need much. I’ll be your rabbit. Give me lettuce and water and rub my ears every now and then.” Arkadi, augmented by the emotional detachment of his guest (a “meat puppet run by a space monster”), spurns her again and considers this an act of kindness.
Is it a good story? I’m not sure. If it were a typeface, it would be sensible, solid, readable Helvetica, as set against last week’s story, which would be some half-illegible, fancy display font. The prose seems clean and spare by comparison, but the story seems empty, devoid, but not performatively devoid, as if reflecting Arkadi’s emptiness. Lack, then, rather than emptiness. It feels at times as though it’s reaching for effect, and for a nostalgic effect at that. Aviator sunglasses, Gauloises, espresso, delivering supplies in the Oort Cloud; the whole thing reeks of the past, in terms of sf and film imagery. All very noirish. And indeed the story itself seems to belong to a past era of short stories. I read a lot of material like this in the late 1980s but now it seems anachronistic. Beyond that, Kadrey seems to be setting up the discussion points, but the story ends before anything happens, and one isn’t left in a position to imagine what might happen. I don’t dislike it, but I don’t love it either, and this week I am extremely keen to see what others make of it.
So: what did you make of it?