Weeding Womb


Undone by James Patrick Kelly. When someone tells me a story has 'typographical tricks in the style of... Ellison', I figure I'm going to hate the story. I would like to have words with several authors who use such things to the point where it drives me nuts.

That having been said, Undone's gimmick of running the story backwards in microtype to show reverse-time travel seems to mostly be to drive the typesetter nuts. Or someone's still getting paid by the word.

The story was somewhat interesting, about a time traveller and revolutionary who, embroiled in a war over her beliefs, jumps ahead in time to avoid her attackers. And accidentally jumps far enough into the future that the galaxy - which rotates with a slowness leagues beyond glacial speed - has completed one-fifth of a revolution. (Translation: A very long time.) Her enemies (and allies) are all long gone, but they left a little calling card behind: An identity mine, which sits 5 minutes back in time from the time traveller waiting her to jump back and try to alter the past. When she does, it will 'detonate' and wipe her memory. (Her enemies try not to kill people - well, kill people's bodies, anyway.)

So, she goes off to explore this brave new future, finds utopia, finds a husband, starts a family, and, knowing the revolution is safe in their hands, sacrifices herself to the identity mine so her children won't be trapped by it in the future.... Almost. Sort of. Not quite, but maybe so. ARGH! The story goes and does something I once ranted about where you have a second "Gotcha!" ending.

It's mostly a good story, but that damn ending....

As a note to authors: Parallel realities do not necessarily follow from time travel. Introducing time travel and then springing parallel reality on the reader at the last second is incredibly unfair. Using it in the "Gotcha!" end is even worse.

The closest anyone ever came to a decent multiend story was 'Marcher' by Chris Beckett. The parallel universe thing was set up from minute one, so you sort of expected it. The multiendings were also flagged by the phrase 'In one universe....' And, of the three endings, the 'real' one (the one I was rooting for and hoped was 'my' universe's outcome) was implied, since it was the last, was longer than the others, and contained dialogue. The other two were just one-paragraph synopses. It also sort of worked because it left the potential for the other two 'failed' realities to collide - since in one the main character begins universe-jumping - so those variations of the main characters could at least meet and learn the errors of their ways. (Even so, it wasn't a perfect story. Notice my use of the 'sort of' to waffle a bit on my suggestion.)

Not bad, but I don't really recommend it, just because of the ending.

The Archon

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