Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. Today, I review East of Eden and Just a Bit South by Ken Scholes.
So last week, I reviewed a book that wasn’t up to my standards. I’m already in progress on a follow up to that and I’m enjoying it a lot better. That review won’t come out until early September, as I need time to digest it. So for the next few weeks, I’ll be reviewing short stories from various magazines, some from the younger side and a few on the adult range. I’ll try to keep these stories as PG-13 as possible.
I’ll make this a weekly thing. Novel reviews at the beginning of the month and short stories in between. I’ll even throw in a novella or two every so often. That way, we change it up.
So let’s kick things off with a short story called East of Eden and Just a Bit South. This is a reprint published in Aeon #6 in 2006 and features in the August 2017 issue of Lightspeed Magazine. You can find it here.
So last week was underwhelming, but this week was a joyous read that I couldn’t put down. It focuses on the Christian stories about the Garden of Eden, Cain, Abel and all that stuff. Classic Christian tales, really.
Here’s the thing: it’s Cain’s account of what really happened, and it turns out the old book got it wrong. WAY wrong.
The characters had a sort of southern trailer park vibe to it. That alone tells you what kind of story this is. It’s an alternate reality telling of the garden of Eden story and it features trailer parks, a snake that walks with stilts on its side, and an angel named Bubba. The whole thing is hilarious.
Cain is the main character. He lives in a trailer during a time when you wouldn’t think trailer homes would exist. This is explained outright that yes, trailer homes did exist back in the birth of Christianity. Cain’s brother is, of course, Abel. Like the two of them, they play the country bumpkin archetype and live with their Ma and Pa. Another character is never referenced by name, only as Lord Almighty His Own Self. You can probably guess who this is. Another character is an angel named Bubba. The author refers to Bubba in the following:
“What you most likely didn’t know was that the angel’s name was Bubba and he was a bad-ass. He was also dumb as wood.”
The blunt comments combined with the sheer audacity of an angel with a typical southern country name is hilarious in his own right. Another character is the snake, who, if you remember from the Christian tales, tricked Eve into eating the apple. In this story, he asks the boys if he can walk, so they give him sticks to tie to his stubs where they figured the feet would be and used them as stilts.
Again, the absurdity is enough to make me giggle throughout this whole book. I loved all of the characters and their interactions. The attention to detail in the story it’s inspired by is a wonderful touch. The story knows that it’s inaccurate and that’s the point.
Speaking of plot, I loved it the whole way through. It’s a mishmash of known bible stories that Christians and non-Christians would know. The story doesn’t hold back and tells a goofy tale of Cain and Abel as a “here’s how it really happened” type of plot.
The story has a clear structure of beginning, middle, and end. It’s about Cain and Abel’s family trying to make babies, but the two want to attempt it themselves based on a little trick they learned from Bubba. The overall story is roughly 3000 or so words and it crams a lot into a convincing tale that feels like a complete work. The plot was enjoyable the whole way through. I had a smile on my face throughout the story.
One scene that stood out was when they first met the snake and his first word is “hiss”. Not as a sound, but actually saying, “hiss.” Then, Abel comments that snakes can’t talk, then the snake denies it by, of course, talking.
Throughout this story, it has a sense of silliness tied to a Christian story that really makes it shine. The humor is spot on and the absurdity is fantastic.
Without spoiling too much, the story is a flashback to an era where trailer parks existed, beer cans were a thing and people can be made from mud and grass.
The writing is very blunt, but it works. It’s witty to the point where every couple of paragraphs has an absurd moment and Cain is just casual about it all the way through. Sure, trailer parks in the early AD, talking snakes and making mud people become real humans is totally ordinary and not at all unusual.
Not much to say other than the writing and dialogue is snappy and well made.
Overall, I loved this story. Funny with historical lunacy and a simple, yet effective plot. Personally, an 8/10 for me. Since it’s a reprint, I hope to have something a little more current for next time.
That’s all for today. Take care and remember, the inn is always open.