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 Unstoppable by Gardner Dozois.
Fiction Friday: Unstoppable
I can’t say that I’m all that familiar with Gardner Dozois’s works. The only thing I know was that he died last month. Searching for something to read this week, it didn’t occur to me that his final story (at least I think it’s his last) appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction. So, in “better late than never” fashion, time for another in-memoriam special.
Today’s short story is Unstoppable by Gardner Dozois, as featured in Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine. You can find it here. This is a fairy-tale type story that one would think was a legend. A legend of an evil king who sought too much power and in turn created a recipe for disaster. So let’s find out the tale of Kalgrin, the evil king.
Kalgrin, The Unstoppable King
The story revolves around an evil and might king named Kalgrin, who killed his siblings (sans his sister), all so he could attain his right on the throne. From there, he became a force to be reckoned with. Seeking help from a wizard in green, he makes a deal with demons and attains power far greater than anyone had hoped to imagine.
This story is wonderful. It doesn’t do a lot, but it does a heck of a lot in such few words. It has no dialogue at all, only being told through description, yet this makes the story enjoyable. It feels like an elder telling his young ones of something that happened in the old days, a legend. Something people tell from generations to come.
Had it not been for the fantasy stuff, this does feel like a true story. Think of the legend of King Arthur or slaying a dragon. It seems unlikely, yet feel so real. Hence, why they’re legends. Nothing seems too out of the ordinary and the magic has some logic to it. It’s pretty dark as well, but most of the middle ages stuff was dark when you get down to it. What with the plagues and what not.
I was kind of rooting for Kalgrin a bit. He was cruel and hateful, but it was interesting seeing how far he could go before he became immune to everything. Seeing him “power up” was exciting, going from a blade that can slice anything to being purely invincible and god-like. It’s always interesting to see villains surpass themselves, only to meet their demise in the end.
Normally, I’d say that this story should have had dialogue since reading text can always be a bore, but I honestly think this wouldn’t have worked if there was any dialogue. It reads like a story, a tale. Maybe some lines of dialogue, but this was fine without it. Plus, I got a clear picture of what happened without being too wordy. It did its job, telling a grand tale worthy of history.
Let’s talk about King Kalgrin for a bit. He’s clearly evil and hateful, but there was something about him being both the villain and the hero that made things interesting. Just to see how far he’d go to get ultimate power was an adventure and while he didn’t commit heinous acts (not unlike a certain boy king from Westeros), he was a mythical villain that transcended time (and space). Normally, characters can become too powerful so that the hero has to struggle to stop them.
Seeing this progression from such a young age, going from regicide to various stages of strength. It wasn’t enough for him to be king. He wanted to be a god. A god instilling fear upon the world. This was a man with a goal, a purpose, whereas most villains just want to be evil. This guy seems to be calm, yet power hungry. I like characters that don’t go too far down the goofiness path.
I was curious to see if he succeeded in his end goals, how much further he would go. Would he seek to rule the universe? Would he alter reality, making it bend to his will? It raises so many possibilities, but I felt him being nigh unstoppable was a good stopping point.
He has so much history to him that it almost seems like overkill for such a basic concept. He’s a child who was last in line, so he killed his brothers and banished his sister so he could one day rule and also executed his parents. Then, he wanted to conquer the world, so he made a deal with demons to gain unlimited power.
The clear message is that evil never wins, no matter how strong. It’s a good story that makes for a fun read. A classic legend worthy of a late author, and a good final work to go off on.
Unstoppable is a simple story with a big picture concept. A legend told for generations of an evil kind who sought too much and paid the price in death. It probably one of my favorite stories of the bunch due to how such simplicity can be so effective. I can see why the spec fic community held him in such high regard. I’ll have to read more of his work in that case.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.