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X and Y and Other Like Stories
Heidi Cyr
RedJack, 180 pages

X and Y and Other Like Stories
Heidi Cyr
Heidi Cyr has been writing short fiction for over twenty years, and her work has appeared in a variety of very diverse venues, mostly in the small and independent presses -- from Quantum Muse to Space & Time, from Thema to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Her next project is a collection of short stories entitled This Happy Girl, and Other Feats of Civil Engineering.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Hebblethwaite

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"Is it love, or just another psychotic episode?" This question is posed on the back cover of this enigmatic little book, and it expresses the main theme of Heidi Cyr's first collection; you may find yourself asking it as you read many of the stories. Take "No Fear of the Sun at All," one of the best pieces in the book. It's the future, where sun safety has been taken to a whole new level: the temperature is 166 degrees Fahrenheit in the city, and even the Menzie coolant that protects people will kill them eventually. Karen is a chemist, pleased to have Robin, an attractive lover eight years younger than herself, and pleased that she has been spared the ravages of the sun. However, she's concerned that this may not last; and tries, without success, to persuade Robin to move to the country. Eventually, Karen does find a way to overcome her fears -- and it leads a powerful sting in the tale.

"The Lost and Found" is another winner, though any attempt to summarize it will, most likely, make the tale sound ridiculous: it's a love story involving a boy who was raised as a tree and the girl, lost in the woods, who comes across him. Yet the quality of Cyr's writing is such that the end result is a thoroughly believable and affecting read.

Not all of the stories in X and Y and Other Like Stories are successful: for instance, "Blind Man in a Cup," with its tale of a gruesome cocktail, misfires and ends up being just offensive. But such entries are in the minority: slighter stories which may not otherwise stand up on their own are bolstered by the overarching theme. An example is "Davey Machine," whose narrator is unsatisfied with his/her domestic android and takes some rather drastic steps as a result. It's a minor story, to be sure; but it gains from being considered as part of the "love vs psychotic episode" theme, as do many of the tales in the collection.

Several times, Cyr reveals a knack for conveying strange and singular viewpoints. "You Can Buy the Girl" is narrated by Mike, who often goes for a night out with his friend Brooks, but doesn't like to do so without a girl. And, since Brooks refuses to pay for one tonight, Mike insists that his friend takes on the role of the girl... Mike's way of speaking takes some getting used to, but it brings his character vividly to life. The same goes for the alien narrator of "Little Blue Lovely": there's a strong sense of otherness in the language, which keeps one engaged even though, in retrospect, the story could be better. It's another example of how the overall theme can shore up the individual stories.

The theme also adds an extra dimension to some of the tales. The narrator of "Peter Prosser" tells a psychiatrist about her relationship with the titular architect-turned-drug-smuggler, and the trouble he ran into that led to his death. But the reality of it all is deliciously uncertain. And in "One Long Hot Summer," a man walks into a woman's life and turns the season into permanent summer. Examining the effects of this would make the story interesting enough; but Cyr deepens it by highlighting the woman's infatuation with the stranger, and pushing the "long hot summer" into the background.

In truth, there are a few too many minor stories in X and Y for it to be entirely successful. That said, there are some strong moments here; and, as noted earlier, the book's theme lends weight to the weaker pieces (even if it doesn't quite carry through the whole volume). On that basis, X and Y and Other Like Stories is well worth a read; and Cyr's forthcoming second collection something to look forward to.

Copyright © 2006 David Hebblethwaite

David lives out in the wilds of Yorkshire, where he attempts to make a dent in his collection of unread books. You can read more of David's reviews at his review blog.


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