REVIEW: “Immortal Coil” by Ellen Kushner

Review of Ellen Kushner, “Immortal Coil”, Uncanny Magazine Issue 41 (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Isabel Hinchliff.

At 44 years old, William (Will) Shakespeare begins to see his long-dead friend Christopher (Kit) Marlowe in the streets of London. Kit leads patient, unflappable Will on a merry chase full of word games before finally revealing the mechanism behind his mysterious ‘resurrection’. Of course, Marlowe (author of Doctor Faustus) lives because he made a Faustian bargain, and now Shakespeare must choose whether to make the same sacrifice in order to receive the same reward.

Among a truly dizzying collection of references to both Shakespeare and Marlowe’s works, “Immortal Coil” seeks to ask and answer one fundamental question: what does it mean to live as a writer? In other words, what is the difference between writing about the world and truly experiencing it? 

Who better to answer these questions than The Bard himself and his ill-fated rival? If you’ve ever wanted to see Shakespeare and Marlowe discuss art, legacy, travel, and death, this is the story for you.