[Although the sleep-deprivation has vastly improved lately, with Lucia sleeping all night last night and the boys slowly making the DST transition, I’m still only writing in bits and pieces, so these thoughts are scattered and only semi-edited. I’d rather publish something half-cooked than wait and wait and never publish at all because I’m holding off for more time.]
I was very excited yesterday when Melissa Wiley announced this much-anticipated second installment in Scott Peterson’s new Uncivil War series. (See my review of Part I here.) And rather touched when Scott expressed his concern that I might be a little… surprised at how this second piece is a little grittier and more violent, and with ahem language. But I figured when I got into this story that it was going to be violent. I don’t rightly see how you could tell the story of the unraveling of the nation without getting a bit grim. And I’m not at all faint about strong language, though I try very hard not to use it and generally avoid works with gratuitous use of it, when it’s appropriate I get it. So, caveat emptor, these stories are gritty and violent– now you’ve been duly about the language and the violence. Neither is gratuitous, but if you’re sensitive this might not be for you.
Anyway, this second bit of the puzzle expands the scope of the story introduced in The Island, giving us glimpses of goings on in five locations: Kentucky, Detroit, Arizona, Alabama, and Pennsylvania. We do get a few clues as to what’s going on in the big pictures, but still don’t have anything like a clear understanding of what is happening. These are local stories, tantalizing tidbits, fragments, or if you don’t mind the stretch amuse-bouches of stories that make you want to know more. These are characters who are just as real as Harry and Buttercup, though not the innocents that those two are. No, not innocents at all.
Still, different characters, different circumstances, I am just as invested in these stories. I really want to know both the back story and what happens next to these characters, although I suspect, and Peterson hints, that it’s going to be a while before my curiosity will be satisfied. There are many stories to tell and I suspect we’re going to be introduced to many more threads in this tapestry before we get to have that kind of narrative satisfaction.
And that’s my big reservation as well as my great delight. Though this is labelled as a short story collection, they really act more like teasers than traditional short stories. All of them have loose ends, leave you wondering what next? I’ll be ok with letting them sit for a while, unanswered, while we go and learn more here and there and everywhere; but eventually I’m going to want to find out what happens next to these characters in these stories. As a reader I chafe at the need to wait, but I also delight in the anticipation… as long as it’s eventually satisfied.
This nugget was just enough to gobble in a single sitting. Well, I did read the first story last night, but the rest I read this afternoon while waiting for Anthony to fall asleep at naptime. But at only $.99, it was a bargain.
One thing I did like about this collection are the hints that environmental impact is going to be a theme. How war, calamity change not just relationships, friendships, the political landscape, and the contours of the human heart; but also the course of rivers, the actual geography of the country. That is a theme that will be interesting to see played out.
This is a different kind of storytelling. I really like the idea of a serial story, unfolding in bits and pieces, taking advantage of the flexibility of the e-pub model. Something I can’t just gobble up. A format that lets the stories themselves shape the form, being as long or as short as they need to be rather than fitting into the publishing industry’s mold.
So now hurry up with Part 3 already.