Dogs of Truth
(Tor, 286 pages, advance uncorrected proof, will be available as trade
paperback priced $14.95, published September 2005.)
live with 'em, can't live without 'em. The family is the predominant
theme of the stories in Kit Reed's collection Dogs of Truth --
the dark side of it, the desire to escape, the terrible adventures of
those who do. "Escape From Shark Island" is a fine example,
and the story out of this collection that has persisted the most strongly
in my mind. In it, a mother insists on keeping her large family permanently
together in one enormous bed and exhibiting them on their own TV show,
so that the nation can bask in their exaggerated family values. The
eldest kids find out what happens to those who try to escape the Family
Bed. It's a harsh and grotesque examination of traditional family values.
"Visiting the Dead" shows us the other extreme, a woman who
doesn't want to move on from her parents, who visits them even in their
backwoods necropolis where they and other dead souls reminisce with
her and her young daughter. Desperate parents enrol their teenagers
-- they're out of control!! -- at "High Rise High", a maximum
security boarding school that falls to a youth revolution. While the
kids live in anarchy and besiege the teaching staff, the FBI try to
infiltrate and take back the school without crossing the mothers who've
suddenly decided they don't want their little darlings to come to grief.
In "Incursions", Dave flees the commuter train that symbolises
his old routine life and joins a community of runaway Daves. A young
couple are menaced by other people's squalling babies in "The Shop
of Little Horrors", while in "Playmate" a mother's wish
for the perfect child is uncannily answered.
Other stories feature other obsessions than family, all damaging in
their way. A woman becomes too deeply involved in the soap opera she's
supposed to be focus-grouping. A disease-obsessed populace stays indoors
and has everything delivered to their hermetically sealed homes through
airlock porches, with the ultimate being human contact by mail order.
Amusingly and darkly, a Muslim extremist who has sworn to carry out
the long-revoked fatwah against Salman Rushdie finally corners him in
a packed baseball stadium, both men in their decrepit old age. All these
stories share one common feature: superbly detailed characters, characters
who dictate the story and not the other way around. They often take
Seventeen stories, each unique, all arresting, await the reader of
this volume. Their insights into human existence may be unsettling and
sometimes even cynical, but they never miss their mark.
Elsewhere in infinity plus: