Review: “Isolation Point, California” by John Shirley

5 of 5 stars.

Appearing in After the End: Recent Apocalypses edited by Paula Guran, this brief, yet brilliant story alternates between honest and insightful journal entries and third person narration close to the character of Gage, the man with the journal. The description is evocative and compelling in a world that now lends itself to loneliness and savagery. Two years prior, a malady of unknown origin [though conjectured to be viral or nano-technological] swept through North America south to the Panama Canal Quarantine Zone. Known as AggFac [Aggression Factor], the affliction causes all members of the populous to become myopically and murderously violent against all other humans if within less than twenty paces distance. Spouses kill spouses; siblings destroy each other; parents and children turn on each other. AggFac doe not subside until a person is the only living person left within close distance.

There is no semblance of society left since no two people can stand to be within proximity of each other. All aspects of civilization have gone by the wayside. Through Gage, we get to experience the loneliness and regret that is his life. We also get to see the AggFac consume him when the circumstances call for it, and the regret of his actions upon the AggFac’s subsidence.

There is a strong, sexual undertone that develops in the story as Gage becomes intrigued by a survivor, Brenda, that lives safely across the river from him. Together they push and test the bounds of desire and rage in their urge for friendship and civility.

This story is highly recommended. Highly compelling, it kept me guessing until the final sentences as to what would happen.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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