the pathetic caverns - books by author - Ray Vukcevich
eclectic reviews and opinions
Meet Me in the Moon Room
Bad me, terrible head for names. I didn't think I knew any of Ray Vukcevich's work; I picked up Meet Me in the Moon Room on the strength of a friend's recommendation and because I was so impressed with the other Small Beer Press book I'd read (Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen). Turns out I'd read several of these stories when they were originally published over the last ten years or so, I remembered a number of them vividly, and when I re-read them they hit me like they did the first time -- hard.
It's not a completely even collection. Although I thought it was quite strong overall, it leads, oddly, with a pair of the weaker stories (but then comes "Beatniks with Banjos" one of the volume's real prizes). There are maybe a few too many where the intrusion of something fantastic or surreal is a too-obvious metaphor for men and women who are having troubling connecting in their relationships, on the other hand, several of those were among my favorites. And I sat on a couch with this book reading stories from it aloud to my love; it's harder for me to give a higher endorsement.
Some of the stores are tender, funny and sweet, but it's also worth mentioning that a couple of them are really viscerally unpleasant -- and I mean that in a good way. Fodder for nightmares (those I did not read aloud). Some balance the gentle and the horrific. My favorite is "Holiday Junket," which starts like this:
So we teleport for the holidays to world where eveyone is required to carry a huge fishbowl all of the time. It takes both hands to hold the heavy bowl, and once you're holding it, there's no way to let go. The fish in the bowl is a barking goldfish. It likes to eat spiders. The so-called kamikaze spider is as big as a basketball, and it always goes for your face. Once you have a spider trying to suck out your eyes, you have very little time to perform the only course of action open to you. What you must do is plunge your head into the bowl so your barking goldfish can eat the kamikaze spider. None of this was explained in the brochure.
But that's not particularly representative. In fact, there's enough diversity that it would be hard to provide a truly representative sample. Some of the stories have a dream-logic quality that, yeah, reminds me of Link a bit, some are more pointed political satirical, some are more conventionally plot-oriented and SF-y (one of the better short stories I've read about the possible pitfalls of nanotechnology, "Mom's Little Friends" falls in this category) Some have mythic overtones, and some are even stories that have no fantastic elements. They tend to be quite short, so odds seem good that if one doesn't connect for you, the next one might.
I'm gonna remember Ray Vukcevich's name from now on. It's not that hard.
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