Saturday, October 31, 2015

DreamPet, by Bruce McAllister

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November/December 2015; 2,555 words
Rating: 4, Recommended

The narrator is senior VP for design at a company that makes genetically-modified pets, and he likes to give them as gifts to family members.

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: This is a story about how the narrator sheds his illusions and realizes that he is unhappy with the products of his work and with his family. At the start, he's lying to himself (and us) about how he feels. At the end, shooting the angel represents him rejecting his work, but the kicker is that he plans to bring the head and wings of the angel home.

The author does a good job engaging our sympathy for the poor, neglected animals that he's given his wife, son, and daughter. He cleverly uses the narrator's voice to make us understand how these gifts are a burden on the recipients, and how the bird that sings "their song" has made his wife tired of hearing it. (A metaphor for how their relationship is dying.)

The little kitten that cries because it wants someone to hold it moves us deeply because we know it can never be happy because the girl it was designed for has moved on to other things. We also know that in the real world, the fate of most gift pets is to be neglected (or cared for by the parents).

Con: His choice to go shoot animals seems a little weird. His behavior up to that point doesn't prepare us for him to do that at all.


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