Review: “Pernicious Romance” by Robert Reed

5 of 5 stars.

This is a brilliant tale in the form of an investigative report of a potentially terrorist or supernatural event including case studies of various victims. Hypotheses and victim reports hint at multiple realities or even a multiverse scenario.

70,000 people at a football stadium [athletes, marching band members, fans, security etc.] are rendered unconscious after the halftime show when a vehicular football helmet atomizes in a burst of EMP and light reportedly preceded by the scent of perfume. Dozens die in the blast. Most have re-awoken in the 16 months since the event, but hundreds remain unconscious but in states of high metabolism, high agitation, and high neural activity accompanied by rapid deep breathing.

Victims start to awaken a couple hours after the blast. The first to awaken reports being in another place for exactly 7 days. Her brother, who awoke minutes later, says he was elsewhere for 9 days. Each experienced a torrid love affair. A physics professor awakens to report being in an alien world for 2 weeks. The alternate realities vary in length up to 58 years in the case of a young woman who was unconscious for 15 fifteen months. She now speaks a different language and struggles to remember English. Her caretaker fiance can barely compete with her memories of a 50+ year marriage with descendants . . .

“Pernicious Romance” appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2015 edited by Rich Norton and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in Clarkesworld, November 2014.

I’ve also reviewed Reed’s “Every Hill Ends With Sky” which appears in this same anthology.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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