Friday, 2 November 2018

'Voices in the Night'

Veteran sf and horror writer Lisa Tuttle's contribution to Uncertainties III is an interesting blend of old and new. The migrant experience, the sense of being alone in an uncaring society, is combined with an ancient myth known to most of us.

Katya is an immigrant who comes to an unnamed city seeking work. She finds it hard to get a place to stay, and settles for a room in a shabby hotel in a run-down area. Her sleep is interrupted by loud voices nearby, not in her building, but apparently emanating from a disused factory. At first she thinks it is a party, but there is no music. She investigates, and finds that the factory yard seems to be a gathering point for a disparate group of rather odd people.

As the story unfolds it becomes clear (to some extent) what is happening. What makes it enjoyable is the way that Katya, like many a protagonist before her, is gradually drawn into an ever-stranger situation. Soon she finds herself at the river, where boats call for the wandering strangers. The ghosts (if they are ghosts) are poignant and tragic because they do not speak to one another, merely emit futile, incomprehensible monologues. Katya's efforts to help one of these lost souls proves her undoing. The ending finally reveals just where the boats must be headed.

A dark tale, for a dark time of year. More from this running review soon.

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