As a subject, Death is often treated with allegory–and sometimes even absurdist allegory. This cloying tale wraps itself in cleverness making no bones about being absurdist and allegorical. While some images work–such as metaphysical, purple squirrels pregnant with possible futures–most of the tale reads as an ungrounded Suessical nightmare.
Violet lives in the Purple Country where everything and everyone is a shade of purple and named after a shade of purple. Her best friend, and paramour, Orchid, is taken from her by the time-space squirrels as all lovers are eventually fated to be parted by time. Violet takes on a journey across the rainbow of countries with her mammoth and unicorn to find Orchid and bring him back from death.
The representational aspect of language and metaphor changes across the countries with “loved one” variously meaning “needed one”, “one she’d eat”, “one she’d kill”, “hated one” and sometimes even straight forwardly meaning “loved one.” Emotions and concepts of money, tears, time, sorrow, stories etc. all flux in their symbolism. The cleverness is saccharine.
This tale appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2016 edited by Rich Horton, which I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read Valente’s “A Delicate Architecture”, “The Lily and the Horn”, “Palimpsest”, and “Urchins, While Swimming”.
[Check out my other reviews here.]