Short Story Review: “The Sun Falls Apart” by J. W. Alden

4 of 5 stars.

A heavily constricted world-view effectively reflects the level of desperation in this speculative tale. Like in the movie, The Room, in which a boy knows nothing beyond the confines of the room he occupies with his mother, this is a story of confinement, longing and fear. Fifteen y.o. twins, Caleb and Josh have never seen a glimpse of the outside world, nor rarely even a ray of sunlight as their house is tightly sealed.

Why? would be the big question, but Caleb, whose world-view filters this tale, hasn’t an inkling. All he knows is the battery of tests his parents put him through to earn the right to go outside. He’s years behind Josh in passing the tests and Josh is just now earning his first excursion beyond the house into daylight. Caleb’s stuck trying to move a marble through a maze–with his mind.

With his father and brother outside, Caleb’s mother goes rogue and allows Caleb to feel sunlight through a crack in some boards and then skip to the next test–pulling the wings off a fly trapped inside a petri dish. Caleb bristles at the needless destruction of life, but upon envisioning the sun as a power source enriching him, he explodes the fly and petri dish showering his mother in glass. She’s clearly shocked by his untapped power . . . But why the fly-torture test?

The cultist quality to the tale fascinates and constructs a singular, imaginative world-view worth exploring. A novel in this world would be welcome.

This contest-winning tale appears in Writers of the Future 32 edited by David Farland. It’s illustrated
by contest-winning artist, Christina Alberici. I received this new anthology from Netgalley.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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