Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Alien Virus Love Distaster by Abbey Mei Otis

Abbey Mei Otis writes stories that seethe with the understanding of class in America and what it’s like to be of the poorer strata. She writes with humor at times, but the lasting impression is of sadness and powerlessness. This collection, her first, really works both in its component parts and as a whole. Through peeks into several strange worlds, some closer to ours than others, but all rooted here in some way, those themes of class remain constant even as their expression varies wildly.

The true highlights of the book for me were If You Lived Here You’d Be Evicted by Now and especially I’m Sorry Your Daugher Got Eaten by a Cougar. The former is a horror story rooted in class and the way the poor are pitted against each other, but is no sermon. It is truly disturbing, and has one of the most unsettling openings I’ve read recently. The latter is reminiscent of Kelly Link (though it remains in Otis’s voice) in the way that it starts with some strangeness and gets increasingly weirder and more true-feeling as it goes along. The other highlight (for me at least), Teacher, was in a parable mode, and it illustrates well the idea that it’s hard to teach to students whose basic needs aren’t met. Why should they care?

Only one didn’t work for me at all, it was the one case where the themes became more important than the story, or so I felt at the time (I was very tired when I read it, so I should probably give it a second chance). All the others were somewhere from enjoyable to very good indeed. Otis writes good prose and brings science fictional/fantastical/magical elements into mundane-ish situations with a sure hand. She has a real gift for naming stories. The collection sits comfortably next to Link, Vandermeer, Kij Johnson and the like. Even if you don’t read the whole thing, you should at least seek out I’m Sorry Your Daughter Got Eaten by a Cougar, which is an all-timer.

Alien Virus Love Disaster- Highly Recommended
Moonkids- Highly Recommended
If You Could Be God of Anything- Highly Recommended
Teacher- Highly Recommended
Sex Dungeons For Sad People- Highly Recommended
Not An Alien Story- Recommended
Sweetheart- Recommended
I’m Sorry Your Daughter Got Eaten by a Cougar- Canon Worthy
Rich People- Pass
If You Lived Here You’d Be Evicted By Now- Canon Worthy
Ultimate Housekeeping Megathrill 4- Recommended

Overall Collection- Highly Recommended

Owned But Previously Unread 2020 49/75

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