Strange Horizons: June 18, 2007
I liked this story. I have no idea how to describe it because it is such a unique subject, but I really like it.
I’ll give it a go anyway.
"This is normal," the doctor says, and, "Give yourself time, it's key," and, "The hospital psychiatrist will be speaking to you about some support groups."Stephen is a full body transplant recipient. He died, somehow. Stephen does not know how. The story follows Stephen, once and once again a cop, as he tries to adapt to his life in a new body which his wife does not recognize.
"What about Marlene?"
"She's speaking with one of our counselors," the doctor says. "Full transplant is usually something of a shock to the loved one, at first."
29 Union Leaders is not simply about Stephen and Marlene. It is about Stephen and himself, about Stephen and his police co-workers (specifically his partner Callahan, but the others, too), and just in general about life as a full transplant. An FT.
The woman ignores it and looks at Marlene. "What are you feeling right now?"
Marlene says, "Lost. Alone. I mean, I know it's him, but I can't. I can't see him as him. I don't know how."
This is such an interesting concept for a story (only 13 pages) and while there is decent amount of time spent at the beginning just trying to figure out who Stephen was, what a full transplant means, that the confusion could potentially detract from the story, but given a couple of pages and Valentine settles things down quickly enough. After that, once the meat of the story begins, 29 Union Leaders Can't Be Wrong is a fascinating piece of short fiction with a bit of quirk at the heart of the idea. For whatever reason what should be a deeply serious piece of fiction has a light hearted feel to most of the story.
29 Union Leaders is perhaps the perfect length for the story Valentine is telling, but here's the key: I wanted more. I wanted another five to ten pages even knowing that another five to ten pages might have messed with the storytelling. I became invested in Stephen, in Callahan (perhaps mostly in Callahan), and in Marlene and Thomas. 29 Union Leaders is a story which I believe will stick with me for a while and one which I'll think back on and wonder what happens next and what happened in between the lines. That's a good story.
I suspect that 29 Union Leaders will not resonate with all readers in quite the same way it did with me, though I certainly hope it will. Unlike other offerings from Strange Horizons (Private Detective Molly or Dead. Nude. Girls. in particular) I did not get excited for the story from the first page. Rather, 29 Union Leaders grew on me as the story progressed and by the end I needed to go back and read certain passages again and then start from the beginning because the story fascinated me so.
Yeah. I like this story.