Wednesday, June 27, 2007

29 Union Leaders Can't Be Wrong, by Genevieve Valentine

29 Union Leaders Can't Be Wrong
Genevieve Valentine
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."

"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."
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.

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."
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.

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.

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