REVIEW: “Fail-Safe” by Philip Fracassi

Review of Philip Fracassi, “Fail-Safe”, The Best Horror of the Year Volume Ten, edited by Ellen Datlow (Night Shade Books, 2018): 327—343. Purchase Here. Originally published in Behold the Void (JournalStone). Purchase Here. Reviewed by Rob Francis

This was great. A twelve-year-old boy has a mother with an infectious Jekyll-and-Hyde situation going on requiring her to be (willingly) restrained in a sort of reverse panic room when the change is upon her. The boy’s father instructs him in the protocol of how she is restrained and handled. But he’s only twelve and going through some changes himself, and one bedtime, just when Mother senses an upcoming episode, he starts to sulk to cause a delay. When he wakes up, Mother is in the panic room as usual, but Father is acting strangely….

There’s a great tension within the story and the mention of Schrödinger’s cat is telling, because towards the end, when the boy must make some important, grownup decisions, several possibilities exist simultaneously – what state(s) are his parents in, and how will he decide what to do? Only by opening the door can he find out. Or he can wait for the final (fatal) fail-safe to kick in.

Lots of fun. The only thing I wasn’t too sure about was the switch that allows time to be added to the fail-safe. Couldn’t the boy have just added more time, and then allowed help (which is on the way) to finally come? Either way, another excellent contribution to the anthology.

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