Wherein we continue to discuss Zharmae’s second anthology of 2013… If you’re just catching up, check out Part 1.
When it comes to delving into the cattle mutilations often thought synonymous with extraterrestrial phenomenon, Malachi King makes a smart move in choosing a protagonist well versed in animal death–the local knacker. Ironically, I can’t think of a story that has tackled this subject and included this particular perspective, which now that I’ve read “Knackerman”, seems quite odd. It’s the same kind of logic that Crichton used in creating many of his characters–if an extraordinary event were to occur, who would be the first on the scene, and who would be most likely to have to deal with the event?
King differs from Crichton in that he chooses a blue collar perspective character as opposed to, say, a veterinarian or expert in the forensic field. This does two important things for the work: 1) it sets up a distinct voice that is representative of a rural mentality and 2) it establishes a theme of secrecy that is consistent throughout the story and is a tenet of this sub-genre.
The knacker, Benny Davis, gains an additional layer of characterization in being an African American Vietnam War veteran who has dealt with death so long that he has made it his business. Despite being world weary, he is entirely relatable as he peels back layers of mystery surrounding the paranormal events that occur on the farm and the family caught in the middle. False suspicions are sown, the line between reality and speculation is blurred, and there is even a bit of a redemption story here. In the end, we understand why those who encounter extraterrestrial life choose to keep the secret–at least in the realm of Science Fiction.
Steenbock’s tale made me wonder from the get-go if the man has screenplay training. The scenario he puts together would fit easily into a a flick from the Aliens franchise and, to me, is a bit reminiscent of the little known film Event Horizon, which is one of my all time favorites. Of course, Steenbock’s work would be a hell of a lot easier (literally!) to pitch than Event Horizon. Whenever I try to explain it (the film is based on the novel by Steven McDonald), I always come across like a jackass.
Me: It combines the genres of Sci-fi and Horror by playing with the concept of a drive creating a black hole in order to pass through space time, but in this case, the shortcut the ship takes is literally through hell because hell is the dimension between the two points in space time. So when the ship comes back and has to be salvaged, it’s sort of possessed. Like it actually brought hell back with it to our dimension. Sort of…
Everyone: Dude, that sounds stupid.
Me: No, you don’t understand…
Everyone: Oh, I get it. It’s just stupid.
Me: No! Why don’t you see?!
Yes, that was an inside joke for those who have seen the movie. Hey, this is my blog, and I can make all the stupid inside jokes I want. Complain all you want about Event Horizon–from where I’m sitting, it was probably Lawrence Fishburne’s part in this film that landed him the role of Morpheus in the Matrix Trilogy.
But I digress…
Steenbock’s work is much more plausible. Station 17-B has been abandoned following an incident that no one can remember, and a group of space privateers led by one Captain Galleson receive a government contract to destroy it. No salvage operation necessary. However, a former resident of the station, Silas, who at first seems obsessed with determining just what happened to its crew, confronts Galleson and convinces the captain to bring him aboard. Galleson agrees at first as a curiosity, which aggravates relations with some of his crew members, as Silas does not come across as particularly trustworthy.
The mystery of what happened on Station 17-B–and why it even exists to begin with–goes deep enough to have been the introduction for a novel or series. Steenbock incorporates some exemplary world building into this tale, but unfortunately, to comment on it in too much detail would ruin the reason for reading it. There are a few red herrings thrown into the mix, along with several moments of No!! Why the hell would you do that?! as the crew explores the doomed station seeking the truth–which, again, made me feel like I was watching a movie as opposed to reading on my Kindle. After blasting through this novelette in one sitting and easily imagining a novel based on the same universe, I’m curious to see what Mr. King writes next.
More Irony of Survival later… In the meantime…
Sorry, I couldn’t resist… -.-