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Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and enjoyable short story, 27 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: Chalk (Kindle Edition)
Though I'm a frequent reader of the site, before I picked up "Chalk" I hadn't actually read any of This Is Horror's series of chapbooks. Which is somewhat surprising, given that I'm a reader of pretty much all of those writers published.

But somehow they have -- so far -- escaped my attention. Until, as I say, "Chalk".

Pat Cadigan is something of a legend in the SF community, having won the Arthur C. Clarke award twice and (more recently) a Hugo award. This is her first foray that I've seen into horror, and so I was expecting good things.

And I wasn't disappointed.

"Chalk" is a short story following a pair of children, Dee and Mary, growing up in small town America, playing and exploring their neighbourhood and discovering certain places where they are apparently invisible when together, through the use of possibly magical carpenters chalk

It is a heady mixture of nostalgia and potent social comment. The setting comes alive under Cadigan's prose, with the simple familiarity of childhood eyes. A small area of the world is inflated in scale, comprising the entire world with only a misty and undefined land beyond. It harks back to a soft childish ignorance which we all experienced where we saw our surroundings at a much closer and more intimate level than in later life.

Childhood friendship is also a big theme, with the bond between Mary and Dee tested gently by differences between them, but also forging a genuine closeness between the two girls. The tragedy-tinged conclusion reflects on this, harking at the separation which almost inevitably affects childhood friendships -- I myself am still in contact with few of those I knew in my school days.

Cadigan is an excellent writer. I'm not sure that was ever in doubt, but her prose sparkles with a cheeky life in the voice of her central character. It isn't easy to write a complex story from a child's perspective, but Cadigan displays here the lightness of touch to make the images and ideas resonate within the reader.

The tone of this story is wonderfully pitched. It blurs the line between the unexplained and the unexplainable, underscoring that in many things in life we simply can never know the realities and absolute truths. That lack of explanation is mirrored in the inescapable sorrow of the conclusion, and the simple fact that childhood years cannot, once passed, be reclaimed.

This is an excellent and enjoyable short story, well-written and with complex and realistic characters. The length and pace are perfectly set, and the horror creeps subtly up out of universal memories and nostalgia. I have long been an advocate of short-form fiction and I can't help but feel in that objective the combination of Pat Cadigan and This Is Horror in "Chalk" is a major step forward.
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