Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories (and sometimes Novellas) are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. Today, I review What Is Eve? by Will McIntosh
Fiction Friday: What Is Eve?
You ever read a story, and you think to yourself, “I wish I had read this story when I was a kid?” Well, we’ve got a good one today.
Today’s story is What Is Eve? By Will McIntosh, as featured in Lightspeed Magazine. You can find it here. This is perhaps one of my top stories so far for a number of reasons. One, this has an absurd feel to it that would please younger audiences as well as adults. Aside from the S-word, I feel this could appear in a story geared towards them. And second, it’s a ton of fun to read. It’s about a group of kids who get sent to a school for the sole purpose of trying to acclimate an alien into society through adults who have no clue what they’re doing.
So let’s begin.
What exactly IS Eve?
The story begins with a young boy named Ben who is shipped to a school with no reason and no purpose, at least how he saw it. It’s true purpose, however, was to train Eve, a strange alien creature (and if the cover is anything to go by, looks like a frog) who everyone fears. She’s also dangerous, attacking anyone who insults her intelligence. Yet the adults have other plans in trying to acclimate her to human society, even though they have bigger purposes.
I won’t go any further than that, but I will say that if you love strange, whimsical stories with a dash of creepy, this is it. It’s become one of my favorite stories. I love stories that have the ordinary become weird and this feels like something a kid would go through. I have a section in my inspirations page about a series of stories by an author named David Lubar. This story feels like something he would write. Strange, yet creepy stories that go beyond what is possible, yet feel like something that a kid thinks would be real.
This level of imagination is something I dream of achieving. What I like is the character development Ben and Eve go through. Dealing with a creepy alien is one thing, and trying to befriend it is another. Yet the few things she says, Eve is an interesting character. Silent, dangerous, yet only wants to be understood and appreciated. Ben is the perfect character to be her friend. Ordinary, typical, and a regular kid.
Plus this setting of a place that is rife with things kids enjoy. Roller Coasters, candy, ice cream and of course, school (enjoyability is debatable). Yet it also invokes a sense of fear once the kids realize what they’re dealing with. I can imagine such a scenario both as a kid and as an author. It’s the stories I love.
Another thing I love is how much story is invoked in so few words. Granted, this is at least 10k words, but this feels like it could be a full-fledged kids novel. Maybe slightly longer and they could go into further detail with the school and Ben, as well as Eve. It’s impressive to see such a tight story with a detailed plot and have it be so short. Again, this is the kind of short story I like. It feels like a complete story without being artsy or being a single scenario. It’s how I feel short stories should be. Some might feel differently, but I have my own thoughts.
Adults are useless
The big central plot point are the adults infinite efforts to convince Eve that humans can be trusted. Yet if there’s a central point here, it’s this: the adults are useless. Ben admits as much. Yet it shows a theme that adults don’t seem to understand kids in the slightest. Throughout the story, kids are forced to wear headsets that give them commands to interact with Eve, but it backfires when Ben throws it away, the first sign of Eve’s trust.
It’s typical of children’s stories to see adults as the antagonists. They’re either the bad guys, or they’re in the way. It felt appropriate since Eve was on the younger side and it always shows the lesson of listening to kids whenever they need help. A lot of kids, myself when I was young, were often misunderstood whenever we had to explain something or defend ourselves. Sure they shouldn’t act out, but often, I see kids being disciplined for little reason.
I was in a high school course where the teacher (awful, by the way), would target that one student. Half the time, I wondered what he even did and at times thought that she did to just for fun. I never told anyone about it because what would they do? We all felt powerless to adults and it made us who we are. If parents understood their kids intentions and not see everything as insidious misbehavior, we’d be better off. And it’s more relevant now than ever before.
Yet I do want to see stories promote good parents and good kids. I’m not talking about a story without conflict, but having the parents be on their side for once is more of an effort than having useless parents who only get in the way.
Maybe I’m more vocal on the subject since I believe good parenting is important and I want to see this promoted more often, but the example in this story was fine. It felt natural for a group of people who never encountered aliens before to have no idea what they’re doing.
Ends too soon?
Without giving away the ending, I will say the ending was a tad anticlimactic. It was fine, but there was a build up only for it to never happen. Granted, it would have extended the story longer, but I feel that Ben and Eve had enough and went off on their own to do kid things. Again, not a bad ending, but I would have loved to have seen more. I guess I’m more mixed than usual since I want to see more of Eve. She’s such an interesting character and I find it amazing that I’ve fallen in love with odd characters lately. It’s a good feeling to have rather than the cool/cute characters I’ve had a fondness for since I was a kid.
So that’s the story. It’s one of the better ones I’ve read and probably one of my favorites of the year so far. It tugs my imagination strings at every turn and feels like it harkens back to the stories I loved as a child. Do give this a chance, because you’ll come away thinking back to what you loved as a kid. I know I did.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
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