A debut collection of short sci-fi fiction that explores time and space with mischievous humor.
In the title story of Curbo’s playful, intriguing compilation, Larches, a viceroy who presides over the celestial garden of Mistress Bloom, discovers a “barbed and repulsive” artichokelike globe that he recognizes as an “avatar” of the faraway planet Earth. The bloom and the planet are deeply connected, so Larches carefully protects the plant from the gardener’s blade and the Mistress’ own shears, and he hatches a plan to seed other blooms in the garden. “The 19th Frustration” finds the hapless John Y. Lipman applying for a job as a “futurologist.” As he enters his workplace—a building in which time is not linear and whose appearance keeps bewilderingly changing—he’s told that he must first witness the destruction of the city of Paris and then prevent it. In “VanLines – The Driver,” the operator of an employee van pool attempts to avoid a disaster by taking passengers back in time, and they became scavengers in a prehistoric world. “Coyote Tower” relates the adventures of two spies whose loving relationship is their only constant in an unstable world. Harold Brayner, the protagonist of “Memory of Glass,” is physically trapped by age and disability as he watches his memories play out beyond the glass wall of his kitchen. Curbo’s unpredictable narratives of parallel worlds and time slippage are strengthened by his idiosyncratic and effervescent prose; he evocatively describes Mistress Bloom’s feet, for instance, as “clops…shod in skins of black-striped winter squash,” and one of the time-traveling commuters in “Vanlines” is said to “giggle a grin.” Sometimes the quirkiness feels forced and random, as when one of the spy’s supervisors in “Coyote Tower” tosses words “like watermelon seeds” toward his listener. Also, the short story format doesn’t allow for very much development of alternate universes. However, readers who are willing to think nonlinearly may enjoy this romp through unfamiliar worlds.
An unconventional set of tales set in delightfully eccentric realities.