Short Story Club: “The Heart of a Mouse”

The story is here; let’s kick off the comment round-up with Matt H, this time.

Boiled down like this, this seems like a parody of the post-apocalypse genre. This apocalypse makes no sense whatsoever, but really, do they ever? Meanwhile it literalizes what is usually implicit in the subgenre: the loss of humanity, the emergence of animal instincts, and the destruction of the artifacts of civilization. It’s a situation, and in fact a whole world, that the reader can’t possibly take seriously. Even the characters–the hard-edged father, the naive son, the mother whose death haunts both of them–are right out of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

But the story is completely deadpan. The cartoon world around the characters isn’t even remotely as frightening as McCarthy’s, but the relationship between the narrator and his son is far more dysfunctional. […]

An interesting story, and well written I thought, but while it’s clearly a story in dialogue with the rest of the post-apocalyptic subgenre, I don’t understand what it’s saying. It feels a little like steampunk, having fun indulging in unusual scenery, but ultimately telling an overly familiar story.

It didn’t work for Pam Phillips:

Ugh. I feel like I’m being hit over the head. Even a talking animal can’t overcome my hate for depressing post-apocalypse settings. Sorry guys, I really don’t want to read this one.

Lois Tilton also sees echoes of…

It’s impossible to read this without hearing overwhelming echoes of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, a father and son trekking through a post-apocalyptic landscape. It is a slightly more humane, less desperate scenario, in that there actually is an economy of sorts and cannibalism is not the only food option, despite most of the creatures at large being predatory. There seems to be unexplained purpose at work. Still, while the author treats the narrator’s mouseness seriously, the echoes of the more realistic work make this one less credible.

And apparently Chad has posted about the story here, but I can’t get the page to load. While I hit refresh a few more times, over to the rest of you.