Short Story Review: “1Up” by Holly Black

4 of 5 stars.

The discrepancy between one’s on-line personae–and avatar–and one’s reality can be a big one. Are gamer-friends one has never met face-to-face true friends? And can the differences between reality and virtual reality be plied in one’s favor.

This clever tale is the stuff of urban legend. Four online-only friends make a vow: when Sorry, who’s been sick for years, dies, the others–Toad, Cat, and Decker, will attend the funeral. Within weeks, the inevitable happens. The surviving 3 meet face-to-face and roadtrip to Florida to attend Sorry’s funeral. Feeling out of place at Sorry’s house among his relatives afterward, they wander up to his bedroom. One boots up his computer and awaiting them is a text-only, interactive fiction game called “The Lazarus Game” written by Sorry.

You are sad.

. . .”Look around,” I say. “Type in ‘L’ for ‘look.'”
He does.

You are wearing black, standing in a kid’s bedroom. There are nerdy posters on the walls and nerdy stuff all around you. One of the posters is curled up at one corner and you think you might be able to see writing on the other side.

Between the info from the game and a note on the back of a poster in the room, the kids realize they’re already hours into a 5-hour time-limited game that seems to imply that Sorry’s sickness and death were no accident . . .

This tale is highly recommended.

This tale appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2016 edited by Paula Guran, I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” which is also very good.




[Check out my other reviews here.]


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