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.