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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Strange Horizons -- June 11, 2018

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Strange Horizons, June 11, 2018

Quietly Gigantic” by K. C. Mead-Brewer

Reviewed by Mariam Melikadze

Quietly Gigantic” is a very odd story. I’m not a fan of this style of writing, but it definitely drew me in with its slow, foreboding build-up and an uncanny climax.

The majority of the story is realistic in style, depicting the narrator, Maya, house-sitting for her childhood best friend, Raimy, while the latter is away for her honeymoon. The setting feels very claustrophobic, as Maya rummages around the home, with only her memories and Raimy’s cat to keep her company for days. This sentence well captures the mood: “I close back all the cabinets. I kick my own foot. I look at the stove. The sink. I open the pantry and close it again. I want to punch things but settle for slamming the door as I go out to check on the owls. Maybe they know something.”

There are vaguely surrealist touches that infuse the narrative, like Maya’s nightmare about becoming a cockroach, or the curious memory of a childhood run-in she has with Raimy’s mother in a secret room. Then there is the ominous foreshadowing of Raimy’s texts becoming more difficult to decipher and the internet going out. I wasn’t sure quite what to make of these scenes—maybe they are meant to instill a vague sense of dread in the reader, like something horrible is about to happen. Yet, for a while, Maya goes about her lonely, monotonous days without much changing.

But the ending of the story surprises, as suddenly the realistic tone of the narrative shifts to something much more fantastical and dystopian, suggesting a sudden cataclysmic event. Or is it perhaps another dream? Or Maya losing her mind? As some of the symbols from the earlier, surrealist snippets are revisited, the reader is left wondering whether the ending is real or imagined.