The second story in Alembical is Bruce Taylor's "13 Miles to Paradise!" Coming on the heels of Jay Lake's outstanding "America, Such as She Is", I had very high hopes. Perhaps too high.
"13 Miles to Paradise!" takes the Garnet family on a drive the Paradise Visitor Center at Mt Rainier National Park. Bruce Taylor tells the story by giving each member of the family in the car an inner monologue to get forth everything they are thinking. The father, Mark, starts out and the reader gets the father's anger and the reasons why and through each character shift we learn more about the family.
The first thing that struck me was that Mark's inner monologue was extremely scattered and ran on and on. Yeah, that's what an inner monologue would be, but it wasn't the greatest thing to read. The second thing that struck me was that for the most part Mark's visible anger seemed to have caused every member of the family (wife, son, daughter, mother in law) to become introspective about nearly the exact same thing. Sure, there are character differences and personal introspection, but everybody thinks about the nature of family and the nature of Mark's anger and the influence it may have on the rest of the family, and where it came from.
It seemed too coincidental. Too neat, too perfect. Oh, the family is a bit of a mess, as are all families (I believe), but in the case of "13 Miles to Paradise!" I felt that the characters were only thinking those thoughts because it fit the story that Bruce Taylor wanted to tell and not because it was organic to the story. That's picky, and potentially unfair (though I disagree), but whatever Mr. Taylor attempted, I'm not sure he pulled it off.
On to the next!!