The Stolen: Two Short Stories by Michelle Browne

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The Stolen by Michelle BrowneThe Stolen: Two Short Stories by Michelle Browne

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

In “The Fields”, Clarice is a governess on a small, remote backwater colony. Her previous misdemeanours in a nightmarishly controlling world have caught up to her, and she is taken in with other felons for re-education. Little does she know what this re-education will include…or its price.

In “WordThieves”, Sarah White is trapped in a nightmarishly bureaucratic peacenik paradise on Io. Spending her days daydreaming about untranslatable words and craving candy, her world is mostly idyllic. Until, that is, she runs into an old familiar face, and breaks the fragile tension holding her life together.

What crimes are committed in the name of peace, control, and harmony? In a world where public violence is a distant memory and peer pressure is a mandated punishment, Clarice and Sarah are about to find out.

Note: The author is a friend. No impact whatsoever on my opinion or review.

Wow. I hope no one draws the wrong conclusions about my saying this, but I’m afraid I must compare, in a manner of speaking, Michelle Browne’s “The Stolen” to William Gibson’s Neuromancer. Before you bark, hear me out: I mean only to point out that my personal opinion about each, at least writing-wise, is similar.

In my Neuromancer review, I mention how pretty much every sci-fi I’d ever read up until then suffered from straight-laced, unimaginative writing, but now Neuromancer gave me hope that the artful combination of imagination and science could catapult a novel into greatness.

Here, with “The Stolen,” I’m afraid I must say the same. Michelle Browne’s handle of the language, period point blank, kinda astounds me, most of the time. The way that she inserts in between instances of her science fiction does much the same. I appreciate it very much, and if I’d had more time, there’d be a long and loving list of quotes for me to end this review with. I will say that I have an arm I dedicate to wonderful phrases of the literary and musical mind to have tattooed, and I’m seriously considering one of them for candidacy. The space is limited, and tattoos, as we all know, are permanent, so that Michelle Browne wrote something which made me wanna get it done should scream buckets about how I feel about her talent.

As for the stories which her words tell–wow (another wow, yeah), huge undertakings of imagination and near-flawless execution. “The Fields” began this short story collection and quickly stole the show with its attention, but “Wordthieves” constituted over half the collection and without apology dunked me facefirst into the strangely cool, cruel world of Io. I have a gigantic soft spot for Io, but the civilization proliferating here makes me shudder with revulsion.

It’s not often I walk away from a short story collection with a sense of having just completed a novel–and a really good one, at that–but with “The Stolen,” I feel like I’ve merely peeked into two universes that have so much more to tell.

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