Short Story Review: “One-Eyed Jack and the Suicide King” by Elizabeth Bear

4 of 5 stars.

The spirit of a place often takes on anthropomorphic characteristics with a tinge of the magical, a dash of the allegorical. Like demigods vying for favor, these city-spirits exhibit long-standing and complex rivalries and relationships with each other. In Elizabeth Bear’s hands, the ultra-dimensional POV glistens with poetry:

It’s not a straight drop. Rather, the [Hoover] Dam is a long sweeping plunge of winter-white concrete: a dress for a three-time Las Vegas bride without quite the gall to show up in French lace and seed pearls. If you face Arizona, Lake Mead spreads out blue and alien on your left hand, inside a bathtub ring of Colorado River limestone and perchlorate drainage from wartime titanium plants. Unlikely as canals on Mars, all the azure water rimmed in massive red and black rock …

One-eyed Jack narrates this tale as one of the two souls of Las Vegas. He stands for the luck, hope, glamour and deceit of Sin City. His partner, the Suicide King, is the personal darkness of the lost souls there. They’re romantically linked, appropriately enough–a queer jewel in the desert.

But this is a desert, none-the-less, and resources are scarce. The Hoover Dam with all of its influence, promises more to distant Los Angeles than to the neon oasis. LA has its interests, too, in the form of the Goddess, a beautiful but tragic silverscreen star who persuades with sexuality, and the Angel, an innocent-looking, youthful entity with mighty skills in influence over others.

The four come together in their confrontation over the role of the Hoover Dam and the future of the Southwest.

This tale appears in Street Magicks edited by Paula Guran. I received this new anthology from Netgalley. The short story was originally published in Lenox Avenue [March-April 2005]. I’ve previously reviewed others of Bear’s consistently thought-provoking stories:
     “The Hand is Quicker–“–4 stars
     “The Horrid Glory of Its Wings”–4 stars
     “Madam Damnable’s Sewing Circle”–4 stars
     “Swell”–4 stars
     [w/ Sarah Monette]–“The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward–4 stars
[Check out my other reviews here.]


One response to “Short Story Review: “One-Eyed Jack and the Suicide King” by Elizabeth Bear

  1. Pingback: Short Story Review: “Cryptic Coloration” by Elizabeth Bear | Jaffalogue

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