More than This – Patrick Ness

★★★☆☆

Seth drowns and wakes up alone in an abandoned city, or the weirdest afterlife I’ve ever imagined.

Coming from a religious background myself, the idea of an afterlife is a) ever-present and b) a total mystery (and well-worth imagining). While it seems like Seth might be in Hell, it’s not explicit. For the first 40% of the book, he’s alone (except for the occasional animal, which may or may not be in his imagination), and I’ve never been so engrossed in a book in recent memory. 

The idea of exploring an abandoned city, totally alone, is something I think about all the time. Sometimes when I’m out and the city is crowded, I imagine what I might do if everyone disappeared. Where would I go in my own peaceful time? Would I take things from the stores (because no one’s coming back, it wouldn’t be stealing), or go into the employees only section of a museum and have a private look around, or just lie in the grass and listen to the birds? It’s a lovely dream.

This book took that idea and let me luxuriate in someone else’s imagination. Yeah, I mean, if everyone disappeared, eventually all the food would rot, and the electricity place would stop working, so it was nice to have someone else take the reins. But just like a peaceful moment alone, all that was ruined when other people showed up.

It’s hard to talk about what happens next that won’t ruin the rest of the book, should you choose to read it, but I will say it reminded me too much of The Matrix, and that’s basically all I could think about until the last word. It was fine. The added characters were stereotypical and annoying, and really, I preferred to be alone.

5 stars for the first half of the book, 2 stars for the last half.

The Devil and Jimmy Biscuits by Taylor Dunn

★★★★☆

Jimmy is a 15 year with some demands for the Devil (wishes, to be specific). As you might expect, ol’ Satan had his own ideas.

This story is an easy, quick read that left me smiling the whole way through. It has moments of humor, thoughtfulness, and because we’re dealing with a character as basal as Satan, it challenges ingrained ideas.

“I’m not sure you fully understand the implications of the proposition,” Lucifer replied slowly. “Your soul, the part of you that lasts forever, in exchange for three wishes. Wishes that I presume will benefit your temporal personage?”

Jimmy stared with a perplexed expression.

“Your earthly body, genius.”

“Oh,” Jimmy said brightly. “Yeah, exactly.”

“Go home kid,” Satan said, “before you get hurt.”

Lucifer is powerful, able to grant a wish, and already suggesting said wish will not be chosen well. The “Go home” suggests maybe he’s not as big a dick as culture portrays. 

Thinking Satan isn’t a dick goes against everything I learned as a lifelong Christian. Instead, I should wish him to sit on a tack (ouch!), not be afraid of him, and most of all: never, ever mess with him (this means not entertaining witches like Harry Potter, not hugging trees like those nature-worshiping faeries in Fern Gully, and not acknowledging someone else has power, like that hussy Synergy on Jem and the Holograms). 

The nice thing about being an adult and letting a piece of fiction be a piece of fiction is that I can read about someone who’s supposed to be my enemy and see the good in them. Or at least be curious about who they are.

But as great as the main characters are in this story, the supporting cast is just as good. Mig, I love you.

This short story is funny, it challenges ideas we already have, but also conforms to the idea that people get what’s coming to them. I mean, you don’t expect a story about Satan to be completely above board, do you?

Taylor Dunn is also the author of another short story called Fear and Loathing in Shanghai, which I beta read, but haven’t read the finished product. Also available is a full-length novel (also featuring Lucifer) called Clockwork Angels (which I beta read as well, and it’s one of my favorites). If these works are anything to go by, this author will be entertaining us for a long time.

http://www.taylordunn.org

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