Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Pelican Bar by Karen Joy Fowler

This story is taut and suspenseful, immersive and unpredictable. It is a character study that starts with an unsympathetic character and by the end the reader is cheering for her. Norah is an out of control teenager. Her parents contract with an organization that will set her straight. Without warning, Norah is kidnapped from her bedroom and taken to a rundown motel where she endures "group," where she must reveal her faults and secrets. For lying, she is sent for TAP, the Think Again Position, where she must lie face down on the bare floor without moving for hours. If she moves she is put in restraint where one staff member places a knee on her spine while others pull her arms and legs up and backward. Norah must earn points for the privilege of having a toothbrush and hairbrush. There are indications that the people running the organization are not human.

There are many wonderful things happening: a lost teenager seeks her identity, a horrible and possibly rehabilitative center is revealed layer by layer, and images and events suggest a science-fictional underpinning. This is an outstanding story.

"The Pelican Bar" by Karen Joy Fowler first appeared in Eclipse Three (Night Shade Books) edited by Jonathan Strahan.

Related post: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Four, table of contents

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