3 of 5 stars.
As proved by periodic reports of hazing abuses, people will often go to extremes to achieve a sense of belonging. Take a smaller group cut off from the tempering effect of the larger society, and the extremes to which one will go amplifies. The themes of intentional self-mutilation in this short tale are distasteful, nearly unfathomable, and yet examples of extreme body modification and voluntary amputation are not unheard of.
Adam, the narrator, and three others vie for the two open spots in the Nub Hut which is little more than an ice fishing shack on the barren Alaskan tundra. The four candidates are in various states of dress and have all had an arm submerged deep into the frigid waters of the lake for the better part of an hour. To be chosen is everything. The preliminary judges are the previously chosen married couple, Mila and Gino, who’ve each had one arm amputated and their sides sewn together. The ultimate judge is Sheila, the only one to remove all four of her limbs . . .
This tale won’t be for everyone. The themes remind me of the disturbingly self-mutilating protagonist of Jay Lake’s Love in the Time of Metal and Flesh. However, this tale is neither as extreme nor as poetic and deeply exploratory as Lake’s.