REVIEW: “Be Prepared to Shoot the Nanny” by Rachel Kolar

Review of Rachel Kolar, “Be Prepared to Shoot the Nanny”, Metaphorosis: The Complete Stories 2017, edited by B. Morris Allen (Metaphorosis Books, 2018): 31—39. Purchase Here. Originally published at Metaphorosis Magazine on 20 January 2017. Read Here. Reviewed by Rob Francis

I have noted elsewhere my general distaste for zombie horror, but if it has to be done, this is how to do it! There’s a nice bit of humour here along with (as in the last story) some observations about a society awash with guns and middle-class self-obsession. It’s a post-zombie apocalypse world; things have returned to some semblance of normality, but anyone who dies comes back as a zombie until they are killed again. Miranda is a somewhat hateful, overbearing middle class parent, judgemental and casually racist, who is upset that her ‘kill switch’ has recently died. Having a kill switch is a necessity for childcare arrangements (for the middle classes), as you can’t leave child alone with a nanny in case said nanny croaks it unexpectedly and eats the child. So two are needed, so that one can shoot the other in case of sudden death. It’s a great setup. As there is only one nanny available today, Miranda decides to work from home to act as kill switch herself, and of course because she’s so overbearing and interfering — though with the best of motherly intentions — she makes what should be a normal day into a catastrophic one.

Miranda is a bit of a caricature I suppose, a tad overdone and bordering on sociopathy, but to be honest, if she is a ten, I personally know people who are at least a seven. It is telling that the first thing she thinks of when she realises she’s mistakenly killed an innocent non-zombie and might go to prison is that little Henry won’t be able to get into a good school, or a private one, so is essentially as good as dead. And then of course there is the implication of how easily mistakes can be made when guns are everywhere. Great story!

REVIEW: “Business as Usual” by N.R. Lambert

Review of N.R. Lambert, “Business as Usual”, Metaphorosis: The Complete Stories 2017, edited by B. Morris Allen (Metaphorosis Books, 2018): 21—29. Purchase Here. Originally published at Metaphorosis Magazine on 13 January 2017. Read Here. Reviewed by Rob Francis

Ah, I loved this. A chilling story with some insightful social commentary on gun control in the USA. In a system which is set up to ensure the rights of individuals to have weapons outweighs the rights of others not to be killed by them, this story takes the next step of considering what happens when a company offers personalised bullets delivered by mail order. “There’s a bullet with your name on it!”

Our protagonist (Andy Wright) has signed up for e-mail alerts whenever someone orders a bullet with his name on it, and he gets an alert one morning before he leaves for work. Shortly after, he gets another, and another…. Obviously there will be thousands of Andy Wrights in the USA, but either there is a glitch in the systems or someone is sending one of them a message. Cue a long and unhelpful phone conversation with the company that sells personalised bullets, which will be familiar to anyone who has tried to call customer services for a major company, while the e-mail alerts come rolling in and Andy begins to panic. Maybe needlessly, maybe not. But the story effectively highlights the anxiety and helplessness that the easy availability of weaponry for the majority of the population must create for many. It’s well-written, the tension mounts nicely and there’s a bit of grim humour in there.

In the author’s notes at the end, Lambert states that the story was drafted in 2015, though of course things remain pretty much unchanged. I read it just as the debate on 3D printing of plastic guns was making the news headlines, and it didn’t seem like much a stretch from here to this imagined future. Recommended.

REVIEW: “Snow Queen” by T.R. North

Review of T.R. North, “Snow Queen”, Metaphorosis: The Complete Stories 2017, edited by B. Morris Allen (Metaphorosis Books, 2018): 15—19. Purchase Here. Originally published at Metaphorosis Magazine on 6 January 2017. Read Here. Reviewed by Rob Francis

A dreamy story about enchantment and desire. When the snow queen comes to town, she takes away with her an adolescent boy that the protagonist has a crush on. After a long journey to find him, the girl is changed, and so is he. But then the snow queen sees her, and falls in love with her and her independent spirit.

It is gorgeously written and falls firmly on the literary side of fantasy. I enjoyed the story, though I suspect I would have enjoyed it even more if I was more familiar with the ‘snow queen’ fairy tale and films, as I felt some of the meaning and symbolism passed me by. I was also unsure why the journey of five years and a day to reach the queen is presented as it is. A poetic story and anyone who appreciates the blending of fairy tales and literary fantasy should check it out.