Speculative Fiction Reviews
An Occasional Review Journal

You've probably noticed there are no new reviews here. I simply haven't time for reviewing and writing recently, and reviewing has had to go. For now, this journal is closed. Apologies.

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Iron Ankles, by David J. Schwartz - Strange Horizons, 16 August 2004

(Note: apologies for the lack of reviews over the last two weeks. I've been away on honeymoon. Service is now resumed.)

Iron Ankles, by David J. Schwartz

David Schwartz produces a thought-provoking and beautifully-written piece in Strange Horizons. Like many Strange Horizons stories, this might be described as a quiet piece: no explosive emotions, fire-cracking fireworks or thunderous action, and it is all the more powerful for that.

Since she was a child, Wilma had always been afraid of ankle-biters and ankle-grabbers. The things that hide beneath beds and in bushes, out of sight, but always ready to grab and bite. As a child, she created elaborate ways of avoiding the danger, but only when she is an adult does she meet a fellow ankluscentus and put in place a more permanent solution, iron bands welded around her ankles. But while these anklets keep her safe, they stop her from progressing with her life. She cannot form relationships, she cannot run, she keeps people away.

This, of course, is a story about fear and how the barriers we put in place to keep us safe from the fear hobble our lives. In the hands of a less accomplished writer, this could have been a clumsy and awkward metaphor. Schwartz, however, handles it with a light, careful touch. He relies on the reader to make the connections and, when he is done, the reader is left to wonder what iron anklets the reader carries and how he/she might remove them.

The story is told with a mainstream--even literary--sensibility, with a degree of humour. The voice is slightly distant, but in this case, these choices lend credibility to what might be considered a slightly unlikely idea if told with the overseriousness and literal-mindedness that science fiction and fantasy sometimes suffer from. A very good story.

-- Patrick Samphire, 23 August 2004

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